By Vin Gallo
Springfield College has not looked the same without Babson Library standing high and mighty alongside its cross-road counterpart Flynn Campus Union. The mecca of finals studying for students has been on hiatus throughout the year, as it is currently hibernating behind a fence and a half maroon half white tarp displaying the library in all its post-construction glory.
As the campus community patiently awaits for its new-and-improved learning commons, there has been a bit of disarray on Alden Street. The sidewalk in front of Babson is currently closed in addition to the building. When the library was in commission, there was a crosswalk that connected Babson to the center of campus. That is also closed, and with the central crosswalk inaccessible, pedestrians have been looking for different crossing opportunities – some of which raise safety concerns.
“It’s really annoying,” said senior Shauna Lewis. “For the past three years I’ve been here we’ve had [the library’s crosswalk] and it’s a main way to get everywhere on campus. Now that it’s not there, you have to find alternative routes, and I feel like it takes longer to get to classes.”
A part of Babson’s reconstruction called for the removal and replacement of its front stairs and sidewalk. As a result, the zone of construction leaves little walking space in front of the library. Though it takes away a portion of sidewalk and calls for pedestrians and drivers to be more wary due to subtraction of visibility, the tarp, called a scrim, serves a vital purpose in preventing further hazardous road conditions.
“[The scrim] essentially prevents gawkers,” said Director of Facilities and Campus Services Greg Walters. “People see construction equipment and they want to look at what’s going on, so [it] is put up there to get some privacy and keep people from driving by, staring at it, and potentially causing some other issues.”
On Babson’s side of the road leading towards Blake Arena, the sidewalk’s dead end picks up via crosswalk that makes for relatively safe crossing. But the crosswalk is also in close proximity to the gate cut-off, which can make it difficult for oncoming drivers to see pedestrians attempting to cross. Springfield Public Safety advises undivided attentiveness while crossing in this area.
There has also been an irregular flow of crossing on the Babson side of Alden leading towards Locklin Hall. Despite the presence of a four-way crosswalk, passersby have also crossed the street between Babson’s right side and the intersection of Alden Street and Wilbraham Street, due to the current closing of the crosswalk in front of the library.
“There’s always people crossing between Judd [Gymnasium] and Weiser,” said junior Greg Geiger. “That can potentially be dangerous especially during winter time and at night.”
There is danger that comes with crossing in any area of road that does not make up a crosswalk. Throughout the year, Public Safety has encountered a difficult task in directing pedestrian crossing to the crosswalks exclusively.
“[It’s] not happening,” Walters said. “We put barricades up [across from Judd] and they’d just get moved out of the way, or people walk around them. With a construction site it makes added hazards. We’re trying to direct [pedestrians] the safest way we know how.”
Facility and Campus Services explored options towards adding a crosswalk in front of Judd Gymnasium, however the efforts encountered several complications.
“It’s a huge project,” explained Walters. “We’d have to do a traffic study, [the city] would have to make recommendations, [and] we’d have to hire a traffic engineer. It was cost prohibitive to do all that, and we wouldn’t be able to do it in time.”
Public Safety is also calling for a more conscious approach from pedestrians when it comes to crossing the road.
“People [should not be] looking at their cell phones while they’re walking across the street, especially when they’re crossing where they’re not supposed to be crossing,” said Acting Deputy Chief Steven Hill. “Cars aren’t looking for people crossing where there are no crosswalks [and] if [the students] aren’t looking to see if a car is coming, bad things can happen.”
With students walking in undirected zones on the road, and being distracted when doing so, such a troubling situation has caused Public Safety to further assess the crossing circumstances on Alden Street as a whole.
“If we can get [pedestrians] to walk in the crosswalks that would be great because it’s not just at the crosswalks over by the construction site,” said Springfield College Public Safety Chief of Police Karen Leary. “At the [four way intersection] I’ve seen people walk right through that intersection, and we’ve had motor vehicle accidents – [drivers] hit the brakes to avoid hitting the students, and they get rear ended.”
Leary explained that students would likely use up the same amount of time waiting at the crosswalk as they would waiting to cross in an undirected zone.
“Your safety worth more than four to six seconds off your walk,” she said.
In time, the maroon facing at the front of Babson will be replaced with brand new windows, and the library grounds will once again open to the public, for the sake of both student studying and passersby ease. The library’s crosswalk will also be improved.
“We’re putting in a brand new crosswalk in front of the library called a speed table,” said Walters. “It’s like a big speed bump that’s there to slow down traffic in that area and hopefully make it safer for students to [walk] back and forth from the green to the learning commons.”
Until the library reopening however, students, faculty, and pedestrians alike will have to keep their wits about them, and remain attentive, as well as obedient to the leads Public Safety gives them.
“The reality is, this is going to be an absolutely beautiful building,” said Leary. “For the short time frame where we have to be slightly inconvenienced, I think these are some of the small things we have to do to support that project. We all have to watch out for each other and make sure we’re all safe.”