Students and faculty can expect construction and closures throughout campus for the rest of the school year as Fresno State works toward upgrading its entire electrical infrastructure.
Project manager Rodney Gleghorn explained that there will be new electrical upgrades added to every building on campus.
“It’s a completely new electrical system for the campus having a whole new service in from PG&E on Barstow Avenue and a new switchgear building,” said Gleghorn. “The old system is still staying in place and still providing power, and then after we get all the underground infrastructure ready then we’ll start switching buildings over to the new service.”
The $22 million project is slated to be completed on Sept. 16 of next year, added Gleghorn.
“We’ve had transformers go out, that’s part of why we’re having this project because the infrastructure is so old, it’s got to be 60 years old,“ said Gleghorn. “It’s failing and they don’t even make some of that stuff to replace it with anymore. It’s hard to replace.”
Sara Mitchel, construction service manager said that the process of upgrading the infrastructure is just like upgrading a cellphone.
“What we have now prior to the upgrade is like living with a cellphone,” Mitchel said. “A broken screen, a battery that doesn’t last, an address book that items used to be there but disappear, and so think of it as upgrading your cellphone.”
Mitchel explained that they are using two different methods to run electrical lines underground. The first is open cut trenching which involves a backhoe digging an exposed trench, allowing electrical lines to be ran through.
“That leads to, of course, asphalt paving, surface restoration, hitting utilities that we may not know about, a trip hazard or fall hazard for somebody walking,” said Mitchel. “There’s extra protection that needs to be put up.”
The second method involves what is known as directional boring, used for high traffic areas with congested underground utilities, said Mitchel.
“It’s like having an underground gopher, but it’s mechanical so they actually bore underneath the existing utilities that will be in there way in high traffic areas,” said Mitchel. “From the top surface you can’t even tell that they’re boring. It’s completely safe on the surface for people to walk unlike the open cut.”
Although this process is much safer than open cut trenching, it is much more expensive.
“I want to say it’s three times as more if you had to put a number on it,” said Mitchel. “So unfortunately, it’s cost prohibitive to do the whole project, but we’re trying to use that option where we get the most benefit for the dollar.”
Because of the scale of the project, temporary closures throughout the campus including the closures of sidewalks, roads and parking lots should be expected.
“We tried during the summer to get as much of the high traffic areas done as much as we could, but we’ve still got other areas that we still got to go through to keep the project going,” said Gleghorn.
Some of the most noticeable sidewalk closures are located between the University Center and the Henry Madden Library.
In addition, there is also a string of sidewalk closures on the northwest side of campus between McKee Fisk and the Professional Human Services Building, going north toward Barstow Avenue.
Those commuting by vehicle on campus should be especially aware of the construction going on, on Campus Drive between the Student Health Center and Lab School, as this portion of the road will be closed off.
Mitchel added the entire campus will be notified by email about new and changing closures occurring on and around campus.
Construction will also be taking place on Woodrow Avenue near Barstow Avenue affecting the flow of traffic. Lane shifts can be expected. Located near the same intersection.
Construction will be taking place throughout the week, normally between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Gleghorn recommends that all students walking near construction zones to be aware of their surroundings.
“Make sure they’re not texting or talking on their cellphones when they walk in to the construction area because occasionally during work days they’ll open up their fenced areas, open up for work trucks to get in,” said Gleghorn. “Somebody not paying attention could go right into it.”