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ECU welcomes back students and traffic headaches

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Traffic moves along Reade Circle where only one lane remains open due to construction Monday, Aug. 14, 2017.


By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

More than 23,000 students will return this week to Greenville and the East Carolina University campus for the start of the 2017 fall semester to swell Greenville’s population, uplift the local economy and saturate many local traffic corridors, adding to an already challenging commute.

Lt. Chris Sutton, ECU Police Department public information officer, met with the media Monday to explain the changes — on and off campus — that motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists can expect and offered advice to cope with and safely share the public byways with the growing student population. 

“Patience will be critical this week,” Sutton said. “There will be a lot of excitement as we welcome about 5,900 new and transferring students onto the campus from Tuesday through Friday. We’ll be at full capacity and that will create a lot of changes for motorists who haven’t been used to having students around since May. We encourage them to plan ahead for the next few days.”   

The most noticeable changes this week will be the traffic delays, especially during peak traffic times between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Sutton said. Prime delay areas include along Charles Boulevard near Minges Coliseum, where students will pick up dorm keys, and along Greenville Boulevard, 14th Street and 10th Street, which students and their families will travel to approach the campus to check in and move belongings into dormitories, the officer said.

“Officers will be posted at points along those routes to try and lessen some of those delays,” Sutton said. “Motorists who want to avoid delays should be prepared for increased mileage to get around those points. If you don’t need to drive in this area during those days, it’s best to stay away for a few days.”

In addition to motoring traffic, Greenville’s pedestrian and bicycle traffic will dramatically rise this week, presenting another set of challenges for the public and police to manage. Defensive and undistracted driving habits are vital in and around the college campus, the ECU police spokesman said.

“Foot traffic always has existed, but not to the degree we will see starting this week and through the semester,” Sutton said. “Pedestrian traffic on and around the campus will significantly increase. Motorists should stay aware of crosswalks and adhere to the warnings and allow themselves time and space to stop if someone walks into traffic, whether in a crosswalk or not. The same applies to pedestrians and cyclists, who should not become distracted by personal devices while moving in or near traffic.”

The continuing off-campus residential and commercial construction that comprises the downtown revitalization will be another challenge for students and commuters who will be cramped into extended boundaries with a limited horizon and shorter anticipation times.

“The boundary extended beginning last summer and then into and through the fall semester, but commuter traffic and off-campus parking have been increasing since then, including pedestrian routes in the TRUNA districts north of campus, along 10th Street and the athletic complex off of 14th Street,” Sutton said. “We continue to stay prepared for that and try to educate motorists about the dangers in those areas of higher pedestrian traffic.”

The police also will assist the new and returning students to safely navigate the revitalized west end of campus, including Clement Hall, which has been undergoing renovations inside and out. Students will be moving into Clement, although the exterior work, temporarily suspended along with all other campus construction for the move-in process, is still incomplete, Sutton said.

The new student center on the main campus still is under construction and on schedule to open in fall 2018, ECU officials said.

Another change Greenville residents will notice this year is the increased presence of ECU police in areas away from the campus after the department expanded its jurisdiction citywide.

“We’ve been working with the Greenville Police Department to prepare for expanding the collaboration we’ve had for years,” Sutton said. “This will be a better way for us to serve the students and provide some protection for officers who might need to respond to an imminent danger. We need to make sure we communicate well to our officers so they understand their changing roles and responsibilities.”

Reporter’s note: Mr. Boardman (see comments section) and others who noticed and were kind enough to point it out are correct in their observation that the original number of 29,000 students mentioned in this report as returning to Greenville this week is inaccurate. More than 5,000 ECU students are distance learners and commute online. I appreciate when readers keep me on my toes. My apology for the reporting error; correction made. — Michael Abramowitz

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.