November 29, 2020

Campus projects delayed over substation and left-turn lane

A proposed university substation is delaying multiple projects in Webster University’s master plan, including the interdisciplinary science building. During a June 18 Webster Groves city council meeting, Bill 8798 unanimously passed through city council, allowing Webster to build a substation on a .35 acre parcel of land on the east side of Lot O, the furthest eastern lot on Webster grounds.

A substation is a remote power facility that distributes electricity to locations which use high volumes of electricity. Webster University Director of Facilities Planning Craig Miller said the substation affects what Webster can build, or renovate current buildings.

“We have to build the substation in order to do any additional development on campus,” Miller said.

The second phase of the substation project impacts the expansion of the parking garage. Miller said that the City of Webster Groves and the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) asked the university to consolidate the Garden Plaza parking garage expansion and the substation into one large project.

“There’s a lot of coordination we have to do through MSD in order to move forward with that project,” Miller said.

In the second phase of the project a transformer will be provided and installed by Ameren Missouri. A 12-foot wall will be constructed around the electrical equipment, and the parking garage will be expanded.

A left turn lane addition on southbound Edgar Road, turning onto Garden Avenue, is delaying the second phase of substation and parking garage expansion. Webster Groves city officials and Webster University are debating whether the left turn lane is needed if the University expands the garage. According to Miller’s projections, the total project would cost the university between $1.5 million and $3 million.

“The city wants us to do this on our nickel,” Miller said.

Interdisciplinary Science Building Delayed Due to Substation

Construction on the new Interdisciplinary Science Building (ISB) cannot take place until the substation project is complete. Miller said he is not sure when the ISB would break ground.

“Originally, we wanted to start construction by 2015 for the ISB,” Miller said.

Biological Sciences Department Chair Stephanie Schroeder has been with the university for ten years and serves on the university commission for planning and facility development. Schroeder said the new ISB is critical because student enrollment in biological sciences has “doubled or tripled” since she was hired.

“We’re starting a waiting list for students mainly because of lack of space,” Schroeder said.

Webster Groves City Council Member Ken Burns serves on the Webster Groves Planning Commission. When asked about the left turn lane, Burns said he was not siding with anyone, but would like to get a left turn lane resolution solved in a timely fashion.

“It’s still up for discussion.” Burns said.

When asked about a left turn lane potentially holding up projects, Schroeder remained confident in university officials and the City of Webster Groves.

“We are hoping the university and the City of Webster Groves can come to an agreement to get this (ISB) built. I am confident.” Schroeder said.

University and City debate over left turn lane

Miller said adding a left turn lane at the intersection of Edgar Road and Garden Avenue will require widening Edgar Road six feet. This expansion will affect the current sidewalk, the Emerson Library roundabout and the retaining walls in front the University Center.

During the June 3 Webster Groves Plan Commission meeting, university officials made a presentation to the plan commission about the parking garage expansion. In the presentation Webster University contacted Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates, Inc. to complete a traffic study. The study indicated that the Edgar/Garden Avenue intersection operates at an acceptable level of service and the garage expansion would not require a left turn lane on Edgar Road. The final analysis of the traffic study was conducted on April 12.

Miller said the feeder lines for the substation could be impacted if a left turn lane is added.

“The only thing we (the university) really disagree on is the city wanting a left turn lane,” Miller said.

Other projects that cannot take place until the substation project is complete include: renovations to current buildings and the installation of cooling towers on the East Academic Building’s roof.

The next important date for this project is at the August 20 Webster Groves City Council meeting. A public hearing for the potential parking garage and the first and seconds readings for the parking garage expansion are scheduled to take place.

Miller said he was optimistic the university and Webster Groves city officials would come to a resolution.

“We’re going to work with the city with making sure our point of view is clear, and understand theirs,” Miller said.

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