The New Campus Entrance Project takes aim at revitalizing UMBC’s campus
The New Campus Entrance Project broke ground this June, beginning a year long effort to revitalize Hilltop Circle, Administration Drive and UMBC Boulevard. The $14.8 million project aims to improve the flow of traffic in and out of campus for those using Interstate 95. The project is also expected to enhance pedestrian safety, aesthetic appeal and offer a more direct route into the center of campus.
According to John Zahor, the Project Manager, the effort to install a main campus entrance had been under discussion for a decade. “The university recognized early on that it would soon outgrow the space as it is currently set up,” said Zahor. “As UMBC evolves from a commuter school to a more residential institution, we need to expand and grow; this project helps us do that.”
A major component of the construction effort is the altered traffic pattern throughout UMBC Boulevard. The boulevard has already been expanded from a two-lane road to a four-lane road, and multiple rotaries will be installed to allow for the constant flow of traffic as cars entering campus slow down from highway speeds.
A consequence of the work being done on UMBC Blvd, however, is the loss of parking spots along the road. Zahor insists this is for the best. “The Boulevard was never intended for parking. Pedestrians who got out of their cars on the road had to navigate many lanes of traffic, a clear safety hazard,” he said.
The university is being careful to replace any of the parking spaces lost in the construction, however. According to Roland King, the New Campus Entrance Project’s Communications and Outreach Manager, “parking is being reallocated, not removed.”
“We are doing everything possible to accommodate drivers,” said King. “Some of the student parking on the loop will be lost, but we are adding 400 new spaces — all of which will be for those students who have ‘A’ parking permits — by the Walker Apartments. Furthermore, the faculty parking lost during the project will be replaced by additional faculty-only parking next to the Admin Garage.”
In a recent article published by UMBC Magazine, improving UMBC’s aesthetic appeal was called “one of the project’s priorities.” King agrees with that statement. “UMBC is a place where we show our innovation, whether it be through teaching, research, the community, etc.,” he said. “It’s time for us to reflect that in our appearance. You want your first impression of campus to be a welcoming experience; this project strives to make that happen.”
Sue Park, a sophomore biology major, is excited about the new entrance. “I think that the entrance will give UMBC more of a real university feel,” she said, “something that it lacks now as the layout is tailored to commuter students.”
In a recent interview with UMBC Magazine, UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski reflected on the project’s importance in a much larger context than that of traffic flow and reallocation of parking.
“The new entrance is also a way of saying: ‘Welcome! You are important to us. We care about the environment. We care about the aesthetics of campus. We want people to be safe in how they approach the campus,’” Hrabowski said.