Jim Histand, vice president for finance at the school, said the project was stalled after Norfolk Southern told the school that if it built the underpass, it wanted the school to close all five other crossings. He said the company's position is that every crossing creates some risk, but he said the college believes that if students don't have enough crossings, they'll cross illegally, which is even more dangerous.
"Our perspective is that that may be true as it relates to vehicular crossings where a car can easily move a few blocks either way and go to a different crossing," Histand said.
But Histand said the school has received a formal letter from Norfolk-Southern agreeing to approve the project if the school closes just one other crossing. Under that proposal, the school would have one underpass and four other pedestrian crossings.
The train tracks run through the middle of the entire campus, requiring students to wait for trains to pass as they walk to their classes from the residence halls. Some, like freshman Lavonne Shetler, see the trains as a problem.
"When you're in a hurry it's kinda irritating," she says.
Others, like junior Taylor Ten Harmseo, see it in a more positive way. "You get to miss class for a little while," he jokes. But the college as a whole feel the trains create a dangerous situation.
In December, a student sustained a severe injury to his leg after he was hit by a train while lying near the tracks south of the college. However, the accident occurred just off-campus and on a day where no classes were scheduled.
The underpass will be located at the crossing that is immediately east of the main entrance and crosses right between the library and the Umble Center, he said. Histand said he believes that is the most-used crossing on campus.
Plans for the project are still in the design phase. Bidding for contractors to do the construction is slated for October. The college hopes to have the underpass open by next summer.