Local officials announced the opening of a $1.3 million road during a ribbon cutting ceremony held on Friday at Shippensburg University (SU), bringing the eight-year project to a close.
The half-mile road serves as an extension of Lancaster Drive and connects SU with the SU Foundation Conference Center, located off Route 696. The project received funding and support from SU, the foundation, Shippensburg Township, and federal and state agencies.
SU Foundation President John Clinton served as the master of ceremonies and recognized the support of State Rep. Mark Keller, State Sen. Richard Alloway II and Shippensburg Township Supervisor Steve Oldt, along with university and foundation officials.
“There are many partners on this connector-road project that deserve thanks,” Clinton said. “Today, we have a beautiful half-mile stretch of road.”
The road will help ease congestion by allowing university visitors to bypass the heart of campus and go directly from Route 696 to the east side of campus, said SU Interim President Barbara Lyman.
“This connector road creates important opportunities for the campus and the community,” Lyman said. “Guests can now access campus in one minute.”
The extension connects with the rest of Lancaster Drive near the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, which will help facilitate the roughly 54,000 people that come see shows each year, she said.
The project also included an asphalt walkway next to the road, which will improve safety conditions for students walking to work at the foundation conference center, she said. Students would previously walk up a stone road and then cross the athletic fields that could turn muddy in poor weather.
The road will also benefit first responders, who use the athletic fields as a landing site for medical helicopters that airlift sick or injured people to the hospital, Oldt said.
“This has been a long time coming,” Oldt said. “Even though it’s not even a mile [long], it cost a lot of money.”
While the road and walkway only took eight months to build, planning for the project began in 2009, said Lance Bryson, SU associate vice president of facilities management and planning. The project came with its challenges because both private and public land was being used, Bryson said.
“It’s been a long struggle and an incredibly complicated project,” said Joel Zullinger, the SU Foundation Board chair. “Money tends to be a factor.”
Initially, the university and the foundation were off to a good start, receiving roughly $200,000 in federal funding to complete a feasibility study, according to project manager Bruce Herring, SU assistant director for planning and engineering. But PennDOT later halted the project until they could come up with the rest of the money.
“PennDOT wouldn’t let us go any further until we had all the funding secured,” Herring said. “The project went into an extended hold period, and when the remainder of the funds were in there we could push it on through.”
The two entities partnered with Shippensburg Township, along with Keller and his office to get more funding. Ultimately, SU and the foundation contributed more than $200,000 each, and more funding came in from a PennDOT grant and Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development.
“It’s a lot of people working together to make something like this happen,” Keller said.
While the exact costs are still being calculated, Bryson said the overwhelming majority of the $1.3 million was spent on the road’s construction, with the rest going to the design work and the walkway.
“We ended up coming in and completing it on time and under budget,” Bryson said.
The construction proved complicated because Herring had to plan around athletic games and the pre-existing facilities on or near the road’s path, he said. The project also had landscaping work done to the roadside, including vegetation and a stone wall along a portion of the walkway.
“We really cleaned up this part of campus,” Herring said.