Words like “new” and “change” have never applied more to life at Belmont than they do now, and that’s especially true for residents of the Hillside and Dickens campus housing.
To accommodate the increased number of students in the “upperclassmen area,” a new traffic pattern took effect this semester.
The change effectively applies only to students who live in any of the Hillside apartments or in Dickens. Instead of students being able to enter or leave the upperclassmen area through either 12th or 15th Avenue, traffic is now routed so Dickens and Hillside residents enter and exit through the 12th Avenue gate, while the residents of Thrailkill and Bruin Hills continue to use the gate at 15th Avenue.
“The traffic pattern changed because with the addition of about 300 more students with Dickens, we needed to ease some of the traffic congestion on 15th Avenue. … That was why the decision was made to have the residents from the Hillside and Dickens enter through the 12th Avenue gate.” said Rebekah Stewart the assistant director of residence life who specifically oversees the upperclassmen area.
Some students who are experiencing the change firsthand in the affected areas claim exiting out on to 12th Avenue can be dangerous at certain times of the day.
“I’m always kind of nervous about pulling out on to 12th because the visibility isn’t very good,” Aaron Binford, a Dickens Hall resident, said. “Especially at times of the day where traffic is bad it’s hard to see cars coming from either direction because of the contour of the street.”
But 400 students were already exiting on to 12th Avenue, Stewart said.
“We wouldn’t be sending students through the gate if we felt it was a safety issue. If there are things that need to be addressed there as far as the brush or bushes, that’s something we can let landscaping know,” she said.
Another of the more notable changes that accompanied the new traffic pattern is the addition of two “Right Turn Only” stop signs put in place to ensure residents of Dickens and Hillside follow the new traffic pattern.
While the idea may be good in theory, students say compliance is another issue.
“I don’t think that the expectations of the people who put the stop signs up were realistic,” said Adam Barnes, a Hillside resident for the last three years. “The only people who I can see really following them are visitors.”
An informal poll of Dickens students who drive indicated fewer than half of the students regularly follow the new traffic pattern.
At this point, the only measures taken to ensure the new traffic pattern is followed have been erecting two stop signs and building a boundary of black poles to force any Dickens or Hillside resident who enters through the 15th Avenue gate to be rerouted “the long way around” to get to their destination.
As far as other measures, such as sanctions or traffic tickets or the new signs, Stewart said she was skeptical they would be an effective use of the school’s effort.
“If you’re somewhere else in the city you can’t just ignore the traffic rules,” she said. “As far as putting personnel over there, I don’t think that would be a good use of university resources.”
One other suggestion is that the change to the traffic pattern will be needed when the university builds a “grand entrance” to the university near the intersection of 15th Avenue and Wedgewood avenues.
“They do want to make that the area where the law building is and where the new Wedgewood building is eventually a sort of grand entrance,” Stewart said. “That’s kind of the master plan for campus.”
That change is indicated on the plans that show the new building that will house the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Religion. Because of that, having more students enter through 12th Avenue could alleviate congestion at the corner of 15th and Wedgewood.
“With all of the changes at Belmont in the past few years, a change in traffic over by HIllside seems pretty small, so I don’t think it’s going to be a big issue going forward,” Barnes said.