Whether by car, bus, bike, scooter, or their own two feet, members of the WSU community are returning to the Pullman campus in greater numbers as pandemic restrictions begin to ease.

The return of normalcy on the horizon is reinvigorating conversation on how all pedestrians and motorists will exist harmoniously in the future. In the short term, financial constraints will keep major changes from happening, but WSU is working with outside consultants to form a plan for when financial resources are again available.

“This is an opportunity to step back and look at our campus transportation infrastructure and consider the most appropriate strategy for a college campus,” said Olivia Yang, associate vice president for Facilities Services.

Maintaining a thoroughfare for motorists on campus without pedestrian interference is critical, as is ensuring that people on foot or bike have ways to navigate campus safely.  The campuses entire network of roadways is being examined with the help of a consultant as well as suggestions taken from a 2019 report. That report offered a few ideas for making the Pullman campus more accommodating to all forms of traffic:

  • Adopt a complete streets policy, requiring the considerations of pedestrians when doing any sort of road work
  • Have a bus/bike exclusive lane on Stadium Way
  • Enhance and expand the Cougar Bike system and network
  • Adopt a roundabouts first policy and install test models

Changes to lane configurations or adding features such as speed bumps or roundabouts will be impractical in the near term, Yang said. The COVID-19 pandemic has left the university without excess capital to make big changes.

The renewed focus on the future of Pullman campus travel coincides with recent evaluations of the Troy and East Johnson Tower bridges. Using excess money from the previous biennium budget, WSU staff assessed the condition of these bridges. They found structural concerns affecting reinforcing steel and concrete, prompting their closure out of an abundance of caution.

Map illustrating the closure of a footbridge between Troy Hall and Wegner Hall on the WSU Pullman campus.
Footbridge closure between Troy Hall and Wegner Hall.

Map illustrating the closure of a footbridge outside Johnson Tower on the WSU Pullman campus.
Footbridge closure outside Johnson Tower.

“The issues stem from rain and ice getting into nooks and crannies of the concrete,” Joe Kline, assistant vice president of capital projects, said. “Throwing salt causes ice melt that exacerbates the problem, but it would have been happening with salt or not, just at different potential rates.”

While facilities services doesn’t anticipate an immediate hazard, WSU is closing the bridges out of an abundance of caution.

How long the bridges are closed to pedestrians is undetermined. WSU needs to determine the potential cost of repairs as well as the cost associated with removing the bridge if repairs prove too expensive. Myriad options are on the table, and it’ll take time for the university to work through them before ultimately coming to a decision, Yang said.  It wouldn’t be the first time a pedestrian bridge has been removed, as a previous overpass above Stadium Way near Nevada Street was removed years ago due to maintenance issues.

“We recognize that this is an inconvenience, and we appreciate people’s patience as we work through these issues,” Yang said.

Opportunities for the community to weigh in on plans for the future of transportation on the Pullman campus will come once the university and its consultants are further along in the planning process.