UF construction enhances campus safety, walkability

As the University of Florida advances a sweeping effort to modernize its campus and enhance pedestrian safety, two “gateway projects” are nearing completion that will make the campus entrances more pedestrian friendly and ultimately create approximately 86 acres of walkable, bicycle-friendly space. 

This summer, the Newell Gateway, formerly a service drive at Newell Drive and West University Avenue, will be a wide, tree-lined, pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfare to those walking or biking to and from the historic northeast end of campus. Further, the campus’ northeast entrance at Union Road and Southwest 13th Street will be a welcome court, providing car passenger drop off and limited parking adjacent to Tigert and Criser halls.

Collectively, the projects are expected to increase the safety of campus area inroads and are a part of UF’s boldest infrastructure venture in decades, known as the Strategic Campus Master Plan. With safety enhancements weaved throughout, the $1.6 billion initiative will unfold over the next 10 years, elevating UF’s physical space, bringing the university shoulder-to-shoulder with its national peers and boosting its global competitiveness and impact.

“At UF, we are embracing the future by evolving our physical spaces to ensure we’re keeping pace with modern expectations of campus offerings while also placing a focus on the safety of our campus community,” said Charlie Lane, UF senior vice president and chief operating officer. “The projects underway will transform the look and feel of our campus, make it far more welcoming and create an outdoor landscape that prioritizes pedestrians.” 

While the Master Plan, approved by UF’s Board of Trustees in December of 2020, is the guiding document for campus improvements, university officials expanded or accelerated several safety-related enhancements following the recent tragic losses of student lives. Officials have been taking a broader look at immediate and long-term improvements that could increase the safety of pedestrians on and around campus, Lane said. 

 Safety measures that are completed or underway include: 

  • A partnership between the UF and Gainesville police departments and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to conduct targeted speed enforcement and safety education programs
  • A partnership between UF, the City of Gainesville, and FDOT to retime traffic and pedestrian signals to reduce speeds and conflicts
  • The reclassification of University Avenue in FDOT’s street hierarchy (or typology) so more innovative traffic solutions can be implemented
  • Special-emphasis crosswalks that are more visible to drivers
  • New safety signage
  • Tree trimming for improved lighting and visibility
  • Pedestrian signal upgrades to detect pedestrians without pushing a button and provide audible warnings for hearing-impaired pedestrians
  • Speed tables at four locations along University Avenue which will be replaced with midblock crossings
  • Permanently reduced speed limit to 25 mph on University Avenue
  • Upgraded “No Right Turn on Red” signs at numerous intersections
  • Northwest 14th and 15th streets shifted to one-way traffic to reduce pedestrian conflicts with turning vehicles
  • “Complete Streets Study” for University Avenue and Southwest 13th Street to develop comprehensive redesign plans. Final recommendations expected this summer. 

Still ahead, UF is partnering with FDOT and the City of Gainesville to complete the following: 

  • Install traffic signals at the intersections at University Avenue and northwest 16th and 19th streets
  • Create one-way thoroughfares at northwest 17th and 18th streets north of University Avenue
  • Install raised pedestrian crossings with traffic control at the 1400 and 1900 blocks of University Avenue
  • Evaluate northwest 10th and 12th streets for one-way traffic patterns
  • Upgrade lighting at intersections throughout the edges of campus

As signified by these ongoing efforts, continuing to improve pedestrian safety near UF’s campus will remain a focal point for university and community leaders, alike.

Cynthia Roldan May 20, 2022