After two years of construction and nearly 10 years of planning, two pedestrian tunnels are now open on the Winona State University campus.
The tunnels, open to both students and the public, aim to address the decades old problem of pedestrians crossing the tracks at grade. The project, valued at $8 million comes after several people were killed near campus when trying to cross the tracks over the past several years.
"Where the tunnels are now,there used to be grade crossings that weren't controlled and they were very hazardous," Lisa Pearson, Arboretum Director at WSU, said.
The two tunnels are located at Johnson Street and Winona Street and serve to connect campus with many of the university's athletic facilities. While landscaping and signage are still to come, the university says the tunnels are a tremendous improvement to both accessibility and safety.
"Obviously it's an added benefit to the university and the Winona community as a whole to give people another way to cross the tracks safely and now have to worry about oncoming traffic, trains or what not," Director of Security Chris Cichosz, said.
The tunnels and ramps are ADA complaint and equipped with several security cameras.
"It'll enable us to make sure it's a safe environment and something everyone can feel good using," Cichosz said.
The university secured the federal funding for the project more than a decade ago, with nearly 80 percent of the project being funded by those federal dollars.
Much of the delay between 2008 and 2016 when work began was due to collaborations with Canadian Pacific.