Redesign of U of M’s southern entry aims to reduce traffic, improve safety

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The southern entry to the University of Memphis will soon have a new look, and university officials hope the redevelopment reduces headaches of students and drivers.

A new parking garage and pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks is set to be completed and opened by late August, just in time for the fall semester. But one construction project’s end is just another’s beginning.

As soon as the City of Memphis finishes the contracting process, which should be in the coming months, Patterson Street will be realigned to eliminate the unusual stops that guide vehicles over the railroad crossing at Southern Avenue. That project will take 8-12 months for completion.

Credit: Tony Poteet | University of Memphis

“It eliminates that turning action, making it safer for pedestrians and drivers, and it separates vehicles from pedestrians,” Tony Poteet, vice president of Campus Planning and Design.

The intersection’s uncommon turns can be strange for people who are unfamiliar, and it’s now at a time of year when many unfamiliar people are on campus.

“People who are new here, like parents right now with their kids for orientation, they don’t know how to maneuver,” a university employee said.

Instead of drivers making a 90-degree turn immediately after crossing the railroad tracks, the street will cut through what is now a parking lot, then merge with the current Patterson Street.

Poteet said there are multiple accidents every year at the intersection. He also said this realignment, which has been in the works for about 30 years, will separate pedestrians from traffic by moving the visitor parking lot in between the two.

While the university hopes this will help traffic problems on that stretch of campus, some students said they’ll have to see it in action to truly know if it’s the right solution.

One student said without the extra stops slowing vehicles down, drivers may pay less attention to people walking across the street.

“College students drive like crazy,” U of M student Samantha Massey said. “If you eliminate those stops, it’s going to make crossing for everybody and all the students just an unsafe environment.

Massey said the street could use improvements to ease traffic congestion, but only time will tell if this is the right fit.

The University of Memphis pedestrian bridge is scheduled to open in late August.

Though the results of the Patterson Street project are yet to be seen, a nearly completed construction project has students relieved.

A common issue for U of M students is being late for class because of a train slowly rolling or even stopped on the tracks. Now, a pedestrian bridge is slated to open at the start of the fall semester in August.

The bridge, which has been under construction since April 2018, spans across Southern Avenue, the railroad tracks, Walker Avenue and ends at a new amphitheater on the university lawn.

“I’ve kind of learned the schedule of the trains, but there has often been times when a train has come at a time it normally doesn’t, and I’ve been caught waiting for 10-plus minutes waiting to get to my class or go home,” student Makenzie White said. “So I’m very excited and ready for the bridge to finally finish.”

Poteet said he is confident these campus construction projects will fulfill their purpose and make campus safer for drivers and pedestrians.

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