Campus road construction project closer to completion

The Miller Drive entrance to campus is under construction for the internal road project. Monica Herndon // Assistant Photo Editor
As the internal road project continues for the next few weeks, the Miller Drive entrance to UM will remain closed. Once open, there will be university signage and landscaping. Monica Herndon // Assistant Photo Editor

The internal road project should be completed in the upcoming weeks, according to Richard Sobaram, director of the Department of Parking and Transportation.

The project, which has been discussed for decades, will impact thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors by creating an entrance along San Amaro Drive. A new roundabout, built at the intersection of Miller Road and San Amaro, replaced the traffic light. It allows cars to navigate onto San Amaro or enter the campus directly. Eventually, the entrance will be accompanied by new University of Miami signage and landscaping.

“It will beautify an entrance for the campus,” said Joe Natoli, UM’s 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).”

Sobaram and UM officials hope that, during the upcoming weeks, 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 resulted in the loss of hundreds of parking spaces in the affected lots. The lots, however, will provide more space when they open.

According to Sobaram, the purple zone is the area affected most by the construction.

“We sold roughly 350 spots for the purple zone,” he said. “We’ll sell up close to 500 when it’s completed.”

There is a waiting list for students and faculty members interested in purchasing a purple parking zone. Though there are several people on the list because of the high demand for a purple parking permit, Sobaram hopes students and faculty members will consider purchasing permits to the pink zone.

In the pink zone, students may park in Pavia Garage. Two floors, and therefore 308 spaces, were recently added for commuters.

To help ease traffic during the start of the school year, Sobaram said that there will be staff members to assist commuters.

“We will have staff helping to get people in, making sure folks actually understand where they’re going and how to traverse the streets,” Sobaram said.

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.

“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.”

Shuttle routes will not be affected by the ongoing construction.

Last spring, officials hoped the road would be completed in 90 days. Today, Sobaram expects the construction to last “another several weeks.”

“The area is still under construction,” he said.

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 fall 2011’s implementation of color-coded parking lots. The yellow zone, specifically, was divided into smaller pink and white parking zones.

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 will 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.

Current plans will not affect the Arboretum, despite past student concerns.