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New Forsyth Underpass Takes Shape in Clayton

Workers are on schedule at the Washington University site even with the recent oppressive heat.

While workers have had to endure blazing temperatures, the project is still set to be completed next month, civil engineer Steve Meyer said Tuesday.

"The lack of rain has been helpful to us, but the heat has been a challenge," Meyer said during a tour of the work site. "Overall, we're on schedule."

(See photos of the Forsyth underpass project on the City of Clayton website.)

When the new structure opens on Aug. 17, it will allow bicyclists and other pedestrians to get from the northern section of near Francis Field to the southern section near Gregg House by traveling underneath Forsyth. The old structure dated back to the early 1960s, Meyer said.

To beat the heat, workers have been starting the day at 6 a.m. and wrapping up by about 1:30 p.m. On Tuesday, one worker sandblasted a section of wall to reveal the brown rocks embedded within it. Another used a machine to excavate dirt so that a retaining wall can be extended.

On Thursday and Friday, trucks will deliver the 16 pieces of the underpass—built in Springfield, MO—to a gaping hole just east of Big Bend Boulevard. A crane will then lift the pieces into the ground like slices of bread so they can be installed.

The underpass will include a 10-foot-wide path for pedestrians, including those with disabilities. It will also feature a recreated space that student organizations can use to post messages about upcoming events, Meyer said. Students have been doing that for years unbeknownst to most drivers, and it's a practice the university wanted to preserve.

Resurfacing of Forsyth happened last summer, Meyer said, but it didn't include the section of road immediately surrounding the underpass. That section will be upgraded once the installation is complete.

The city had begun working with the university to replace the underpass in 2007, Meyer said. The Missouri Department of Transportation routinely inspects bridges, and it and found cracks in the Forsyth structure. A support beam was installed as a temporary safety measure.

While the project is in city right-of-way, Washington University is paying for the bulk of the $2.1 million project and will maintain the structure. A federal grant will pay for $772,000 worth of work. After the underpass opens next month, a few small items such as landscaping will remain on the to-do list.

The city and school worked together to get the word out about the work and related detours, Meyer said. Clayton aldermen initially expressed concern about the traffic that might spill onto Wydown Boulevard, but a study conducted shortly after work began found traffic levels fell slightly from previous years. In part, that can be attributed to the end of the school year at , Meyer said.

"You catch 90 percent of the people" with the signage, Meyer said, and the remainder simply have to make a U-turn.

This marks the largest Clayton public works project this year. Old concrete and steel from the previous structure will be recycled.

"It's a good private-public partnership between the university and the city," Meyer said.

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