JONESBORO, ARKANSAS-On Tuesday the Marion Berry Parkway officially opened to car and pedestrian traffic. This opening means that the ASU section of Caraway Road which crosses three sets of railroad tracks can now be closed.
On Friday the ASU Faculty Senate proposed a bill to keep Caraway open for a while longer. The ASU Planning Department says it has to close now. It's an overpass impasse of sorts.
Dr. Jack Zibluk the President of the ASU Faculty Senate and I stood beside the overpass as another freight train roared by on its way South. About a half mile to East of where we were standing, traffic on Caraway had come to a stop as the barriers dropped for the speeding train.
"Keep Caraway road open." Zibluk said, "Until the project is completed. We want to see it all in one piece just for convenience and for safety." Zibluk said that Caraway is the best access to the main classroom area on campus and the most direct. Traffic coming off Caraway turns either right or left to access the parking lots for Engineering, Communications and other main buildings on campus. Dr. Amy Pearce passed by, checking out the graveled road that comes off the overpass.
Looking by at yet another train rolling past Pearce said, "I understand that Caraway Road is going to be closed soon and that is going to block my most convenient access to the campus."
According to David Handwork, the Planning Director for ASU, Caraway has to be closed due to agreements with the railroads once the parkway was opened. "Eventually, " Handwork said, "We will finish up University Loop so that it passes under the overpass, swings around and connects up with Aggie Road. That project should be let out for bids in the second quarter of 2012 and take about 15 to 18 months to complete."
The gravel section connecting to the exit off the parkway and running into the intramural area will be paved in the spring but it will give no access to the campus off Caraway.
Handwork says the plans are to close Caraway completely off the week after December graduation, around the 19th. Handwork says there will be no pedestrian access at all.
Because of overcrowded parking Junior Blake Irvin parks his car by the intramural fields and walks across the tracks to the communication buildings. But not next semester. "I won't be able to cross over?" he asked. "Well if that's the case then it looks like I'll be sitting there waiting for a spot like everybody else."
The senate did approve the bill asking for the road to stay open but Handwork says it has to close. And he adds, "There are deep drainage issues by each set of tracks." And he pointed out, "Once the crossings are gone trains will no longer have to sound their whistles as they approach the college."