A closer look at the campus road construction

Perhaps the biggest change to the University of Miami’s campus in decades has already begun – and it will impact thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors by creating a new entrance along San Amaro Drive.

The internal road project, which has been discussed for decades, is finally underway. A new roundabout at the intersection of Miller Road and San Amaro will be built. The roundabout will replace the current traffic light. It will allow cars to still navigate onto San Amaro or enter the campus directly. Eventually, the entrance will be accompanied by new University of Miami signage and landscaping.

“It’ll beautify an entrance for the campus,” said Joe Natoli, senior vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer. “It’ll really be a very attractive way of entering the campus and bringing people into the Ring Theatre, Gusman Center and Student Activities Center (SAC).”

UM officials hope that by late August, commuters will be able to drive into what is now the parking lot behind the Frost School of Music. The new road will then turn left and run through the parking lots behind the Law School, Ungar Building and Cox Science Center before reconnecting to San Amaro at Robbia Avenue.

Planning for the road began in 2006 after a “very hasty and fast negotiation” between UM and the city of Coral Gables, said Janet Gavarrete, associate vice president of campus planning and development. She said Coral Gables officials wanted the work to begin in order to move forward with other UM projects such as the SAC.

Coral Gables officials did not reply to repeated requests for comment on the project. In the past, they have said they hope the internal road will help ease traffic through residential streets adjacent to the campus. However, those streets will still be accessible to all motorists.

The project’s cost has not yet been determined. Still, it will result in the loss of hundreds of parking spaces in the effected lots. The lots, however, will provide more space. According to Richard Sobaram, director of the Department of Parking and Transportation, the new levels being added to the Pavia Garage will open by the fall and the first floor will be reserved for visitors.

Though many students aren’t aware of the project, several think it’s a good idea.

“I know that there’s a lot of school traffic mixed with Coral Gables traffic, so I think having our own road would certainly be helpful,” said Angela Clark, a third-year law student who parks in the purple zone behind Frost.

Sobaram said schedules and delivery routes have been developed to accommodate the Ring Theatre and Gusman Center’s 37 summer events, deliveries to the University Center and ongoing construction of the SAC. Though shuttle routes will still run to the Fountain behind the Ashe Building, a new stop will be created near the post office in the University Center. That stop is expected to become a hub for pedestrians and future events. Also, the street in front of the Ring (Miller Drive) will no longer have metered parking.

“We think it’ll also make the shuttles more efficient,” Sobaram said. “A round trip from Ponce to Miller Drive will be reduced by five to seven minutes.”

Officials hope the road will be completed in 90 days, but accommodations have been made for summer storms or other unpredictable factors that may slow down construction. The new Miller Drive plaza will not be completed until the spring of 2013, at the earliest.

According to Gavarrete, Coral Gables suggested a roundabout in order to ease traffic flow and meet environmental standards. Gavarrete, who has been monitoring the university’s traffic since 1992, expects the new traffic flow and upgraded parking lots to complement last fall’s implementation of color-coded parking lots; the yellow zone, specifically, may be divided into smaller zones next fall.

The negotiation between the city and university called for the internal road to be built in two phases, but Gavarrete said she hopes the second phase may not be necessary because of the Miller Road changes.

The second phase would involve extending the road through the Memorial Building and School of Communication lots and eventually linking with Stanford Drive near the School of Business Administration.

In the past, students and others have raised concerns about the road cutting through the Arboretum. Current plans will not affect the Arboretum.

“The big issue for the Arboretum is whether phase two is also approved, which will come later,” said Steve Pearson, director of the arboretum. “We are encouraged that the university is trying to solve this problem of a need for an internal road without it impacting the Arboretum and we’re fully supporting that the city approves the plan that way.”

Campus changes will also include the UHealth Center, a relocated Toppel Career Center, new classroom buildings for the School of Law and the Frost School of Music, improvements to Cox, and additional lighting for the intramural fields.