Feb. 8, 1999
Volume 51, No. 19
Lullwater shuttle road options under consideration
Emory Campus Planning will present several plans for a shuttle road along the edge of Lullwater this month for review by President Bill Chace and the University Senate Committee on the Environment (COE).
The road has come under criticism lately from students, specifically the Emory chapter of the Student Environmental Action Coalition. The group gathered 300 signatures on a petition demanding the shuttle road be prevented from going through Lullwater. Coalition members also posted signs and wrote chalk messages around campus protesting the road.
Last year's Campus Master Plan called for the eventual removal of daily car traffic from the University's core campus. To accomplish this, it suggested the construction of at most two additional parking decks, one of which would be located at University Apartments and linked to the campus by a shuttle road skirting the southern edge of Lullwater along the CSX railroad line. That deck is currently in the design phase and is scheduled for completion in August 2000.
Jen Fabrick, director of Campus Planning, said the road will not run through Lullwater but along the edge of it, and the shuttles using the road will be electric, non-polluting vehicles. "A shuttle road, restricted to electric shuttles, cyclists and pedestrians, would effectively reduce commuter travel time from the deck to the core campus by more than 50 percent, making for a shorter, more pleasant commute," Fabrick said. "Perhaps most importantly, this new route would cut in half the number of shuttles needed."
The five alternatives being submitted range from a two-lane road with separate bike and pedestrian lanes to a single-lane road. Plans also call for a bridge over the railroad line from Lullwater near Turman Residence Hall.
Bill Size, COE chairman, said his committee is waiting to see the proposals before approving or disapproving of the shuttle road in concept. "We're trying to stay away from becoming too polarized until we have all the information," Size said. "In hindsight, what was missing [from the master plan] was a campuswide environmental impact study. Now we're having to go back and, as each proposal comes forward, ask, 'What is the impact from this?' That's what we're having to do with a number of projects, not just the shuttle road."
Size said the problem stems mostly from the fact that so many capital projects are online right now. He cited the new Nursing School, the Whitehead Research Building and the new cancer center as three large buildings that when completed will house thousands of staff-and none has any parking facilities planned.
"These people need parking, so that's driving the necessity for this deck and the shuttle road," Size said. "We don't have enough time to think these things out; that's what's happening."
Size did say the goal of removing cars from central campus is admirable and should be weighed heavily against the disadvantages of disturbing Lullwater. "It's the tradeoff of, 'What is the value of keeping Lullwater the way it is now?'" he said. "It's also the precedent it sets because once you creep in on one side, people will say, 'Hey, we can nip and tuck a little bit over here, too, and put a building over here,' and pretty soon Lullwater's gone."
The student coalition also objected to siting the new parking at University Apartments, saying it "would require the demolition of a forest with many large trees and the destruction of many species' habitat, and will require piping and/or redirection of a stream." The deck's design takes advantage of a hillside grade, allowing only two levels of parking exposed at one end; the new University Apartments plan will also feature a recreation area with an Olympic-size swimming pool, eight tennis courts, a student activities center, a new day-care center and a soccer field. Fabrick said the area also will be reforested after construction is complete.
"Yes, some trees will be lost to accommodate [the shuttle road], but we are analyzing each and every shuttle route option tree by tree to help us determine the most environmentally feasible but functional route to develop," Fabrick said, adding that the University decided on the UA parking deck site only after eliminating nine other possible locations.
"We face many challenges as a community when it comes to determining how best we grow, but none more difficult than that of parking and traffic congestion," she said. "We welcome active participation in working with us to resolve these issues."