by Trent Jacobs
The gateway to Stephen F. Austin State University is set for a makeover.
Just before spring break, the university cut down several trees in the first step of modernizing the entire front entrance along the double-tongued intersection of Vista Drive, Griffith Blvd., and North Street.
This week, the bidding process for the construction of the new entrance ended and SFA officials will be pouring over the bids for an unspecified time.
SFA is looking to enhance the entrance, which is often the first thing prospective students see when they visit the campus, and to make the intersection safer for drivers and pedestrians.
"This is a comprehensive project that includes street and traffic signal reconfiguration and a new entrance and sign," said Bob Wright, executive director of marketing and public affairs at SFA. "The project is a collaborative effort between the university, the City of Nacogdoches and the Texas Department of Transportation that will make entry to the university safer and reduce traffic conflicts in that area."
Wright said that out of the 13 large pines that were removed, only two were able to be relocated elsewhere on campus due to the extreme age of the larger trees.
"Although it is a hardship to lose any trees, during the past several months, seven campus tree-planting events involving 275 volunteers resulted in the planting of 325 trees," he said. "SFA will always be known for its heavily forested landscape, and maintaining the beauty of the campus will continue to be a high priority."
Other grounds enhancement projects have been taking place around the campus since last year, most notably the corner park on North and College Streets that now includes a concrete sign boasting the university's name.
And on the wishes of SFA President Dr. Baker Pattillo, the existing art deco sign that has been serving as the university's entryway centerpiece for decades will be dismantled, stored and saved for posterity until a decision is made on where it can be relocated.
The redesign of the traffic lights and flow of traffic into the university will be handled by TxDOT, which has been responsible for the intersection since 1991, along with other outside consultants.
"Given the configuration and traffic circulation within the SFA campus, the location has presented safety and operational issues from time to time," said Herbert Bickley. regional TxDOT director of transportation operations. "By eliminating the center drive, operation should improve along with increasing the overall safety of the intersection."