UPDATE: UTEP street closures begin Monday morning.
Construction crews have installed fencing in the center of campus to begin a year-long project to make the University of Texas at El Paso a pedestrian-friendly campus.
Vehicles will no longer be allowed to drive through University Avenue or Hawthorne Street.
On Monday morning, the Texas Department of Transportation also started construction of Spur 1966 and a roundabout on Schuster Avenue.
The closure at Schuster Ave. will continue through August 25.
If the University of Texas at El Paso wants to be Tier One, it's leaders believe the campus has to reflect those ambitions. That's one of the reasons the campus will be undergoing a massive transformation in the next year. The $25 million year-long construction project is slated to begin Monday and be completed by the beginning of the 2014 Fall semester.
The campus will remove all of its metered visitor parking on University Avenue and will add more grass and trees to make the grounds more pedestrian friendly. President Dr. Diana Natalicio said the current sidewalks, built mostly in 60s are too narrow to accommodate the more than 23,000 students. She said the redesign is also meant to improve safety.
UTEP will use recycled water to maintain the new grass and trees with the help of a new micro water processing plant El Paso Water Utilities will install. "We live in a desert. We understand that and we have to treat our area with respect and use some recycled water and this fashion is a good, good solution," said Greg McNicol, UTEPs Associate Vice President of Business Affairs. The University will also reuse five tons of asphalt, steel and concrete that is removed and replaced with grass.
The University has also been brain storming about how to help visitors now that the campus will be much more restricted to vehicle traffic. Visiting campus will require more walking as most of the visitor parking will be on the edge of campus, like the Sun Bowl garage, Hilton Garden Inn and the academic services building off of Schuster, though there will still be some spaces at the Union. "For the most part, most of our visiting parking will remain intact," said Paul Stresow, UTEPs Director of Parking and Transportation. He said the campus has nearly 400 visitor parking spaces.
The redesign begins at the same time the Texas Department of Transportation will close a portion of Schuster vital to UTEP. Schuster from sun bowl to prospect will be closed from May 18th to August 25th for crews who are working on a turnabout for the Spur 1966, an overpass that will connect Schuster to Paisano above I-10.
Students with a permit to park on the UTEP lots in the closed Schuster area will have to find other places to park during summer school. "We have about 500 to 600 permit holders who will be displaced. We have enough spaces in our other lots to accommodate those students," said Stresow.