A Bridge Too Low

Campus canvas: renovations will put free expression on hold

 Campus canvas: renovations will put free expression on hold. photo: Les Todd


Generations of Duke students have painted graffiti on the bridge between East and West Campuses. The brightly colored concrete and paint-splashed sides serve as a billboard for fraternities, sororities, activists, and student groups. But starting in 2006, students will temporarily have to find another place to advertise.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to rebuild the bridge, which has begun to deteriorate. The rebuilding project, which could take almost two years, will also allow emergency vehicles to pass under Main Street on Campus Drive. Because of the bridge's age, DOT officials say it is more cost-effective to replace it.

In January, the DOT held a workshop in the East Campus Union to show two possible plans for the new bridge. Both included raising the bridge, building four, twelve-foot-wide traffic lanes and five-foot-wide sidewalks. One version would cost $1.01 million; the second version, which would also include a bike lane, would cost $1.11 million. Transportation officials are expected to choose a plan by June.

The new bridge will continue to serve as a canvas for self-expression, DOT officials say. Usually, all graffiti must be removed from public bridges immediately. But because the graffiti has a long-standing tradition at Duke, the DOT allows it to remain.

During construction, Main Street and Campus Drive will remain open as much as possible, according to Drew Joyner, the project engineer. Construction will be done on one side of the bridge at a time to allow two lanes of traffic on Main Street to remain open, Joyner says, and most construction that would disrupt traffic will be done at night.

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