As bewildered drivers maneuver their cars down El Colegio Road, their vision is assaulted by a mass of overwhelming orange cones, chain link fences, giant ditches and puddles, random pieces of construction equipment, and spools of yellow caution tape. In one frustrating area, an entire side of the street is blocked off, causing inconvenient detours that waste time. It is almost an applaudable feat to navigate through the mess without causing or at least being part of an accident.
This giant muddle of a construction project has been more than an eyesore and a hassle since the school year began, affecting students that reside in Santa Catalina, Santa Inez, and the San Clemente Apartments who bike past every day, students in Isla Vista who drive, and anyone who has to drive along El Colegio to get to campus. Maybe the street will look wonderful when it’s completed, but how long will we all weave through the maze of orange cones, narrowly missing a collision or two with a cone on the blocked off side of the road, even when we are sober? How much longer will students have to breathe errant construction dust into their lungs as they bike past the long stretch of chain link fences to class? How much longer will I cut across the street in legally questionable terms, not knowing how the altered bike path even works in relation to the construction? In addition, drivers have to take detours to go around the construction, going out of their way give-or-take about three extra miles. Think of all the wasted gas!
“It’s unbelievably inconvenient! Why couldn’t they do it during the summer?” fumed freshman Kristin Crosier. “If it’s a school-sanctioned thing, why didn’t they do it earlier or later, not all during the school year?” This choice of timing bewilders most students, but the good news is that we won’t have to deal with it much longer.
According to Don Felts, foreman for Lash Construction, the joint venture project between UCSB and Santa Barbara County will finally end around April. Felts reassured me, however, that the road will be paved in less than two weeks, reducing the errant dirt and dust blowing around, and improving our view.
Unfortunately, for the next two months they will be installing sprinklers, fixing lights, painting, irrigating, and doing necessary preparation, possibly blocking the road until April. “We’re all working together to get this project done on time,” insisted Felts.
Even though I’m glad to hear there is a close deadline and it looks like construction is on schedule, I’m still annoyed by the fact that it’s taken so long. Also, the idea that our own school signed up for a construction project to start at the beginning of the school year, almost seemingly to add confusion to an already disoriented freshman Santa Catalina population, is a little vexing. We need to demand that this construction project, like so many other delayed and overdrawn constructions before it, is completed at least on time, if not earlier, so we can all save ourselves from the killer headache that lies in wait for us every day. Only then can we relax, avoid unnecessary accidents, and enjoy the view along the path that leads us to or away from campus each day.