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UMW bridge too far for some
Many but not all University of Mary Washington students use the new pedestrian bridge

 UMW students walk across U.S. 1 yesterday rather than taking the new $3.4 million pedestrian bridge between the main Fredericksburg campus and Eagle Village, which includes student apartments, parking, shopping and dining.
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Date published: 8/28/2010

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

University of Mary Washington sophomore Wiaam Yasin says the school's new $3.4 million pedestrian bridge is nice.

On a recent afternoon, however, she and a friend took the U.S. 1 crosswalk instead.

It's a quicker route from the Fredericksburg campus to the grocery store in Eagle Village, they said.

"It's easier," Yasin said. "We have class soon."

While most students seem to use the pedestrian bridge to reach UMW's Eagle Village, some opt for the crosswalk--a more direct way to Giant and other stores across from the main campus.

University officials hope that will change.

"It may be more convenient, but it's not as safe," said Rick Pearce, UMW's acting vice president for administration and finance. "From the university's perspective, their safety is paramount."

Last week, the university posted signs on both sides of the intersection of four-lane U.S. 1 and College Avenue encouraging students to use the pedestrian bridge for their safety.

"That's a heavily traveled road," Pearce said. "It's fast. It scares the devil out of us to have the students going back and forth. I don't feel comfortable crossing it myself."

Despite the signs, senior Chris Anna and sophomore Leane Baramki recently took the crosswalk on their way to Giant. They waited for the pedestrian signal to light up before walking across the highway.

The bridge leads straight to the Eagle Landing apartment complex, but Anna said it's out of the way for students who need to shop for groceries.

"You have to make it convenient for the kids that spent extra money to live" in Eagle Landing, Anna said.

For now, students must walk across a $150,000, 500-foot boardwalk to access the bridge. The temporary walkway's entrance, at the corner of College Avenue and U.S. 1, is near the crosswalk.

The university will tear down the boardwalk after finishing construction of the Anderson Center--a facility for basketball games and other events--in spring 2011. Students will then be able to follow a path from the main campus walkway--called campus walk--to the bridge.

Pearce said he thinks even more students will cross the bridge once it connects to campus walk. Currently, he estimates 90 to 95 percent of students take the bridge instead of the crosswalk.

"We're happy with the way it's being used," he said.

Sophomore Kevin Rinek, who lives in Eagle Landing, uses the bridge daily, but he isn't a big fan of the boardwalk setup.

"Right now, it doesn't seem that efficient," he said. "It does the job, though."

Sophomore and Eagle Landing tenant Michael Ande said he likes the pedestrian bridge for practical reasons and because "it makes the school look nicer."

"I just like the fact that it's safer than crossing the street," Ande said. "If somebody does get hit by a car, it's their choice to cross."

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com