by Aidan Gibson '16
Over the past two weeks, construction crews have completely removed the path between the 70s houses and the right side of Second Street, digging a trench and creating a maze of fences in the process.
Students who live in the 70s houses have been restricted to using their back doors (or in some cases, climbing over mesh fences and concrete barriers) to get inside. The back doors for McCullough, Leigh and Bingham have been unusable as well.
Those hoping for a Community-style paintball war between the now more isolated Third Street and the rest of campus (winners get to avoid Greenwall) will be disappointed, as construction crews are slowly starting to fill in the trenches, offering students from Noyes and Sawtell a second way to get out of their houses.
The purpose of this construction is to replace the original steam pipes that were put into place when the Barnes houses were first built in the late 1960s. According to Ben Szalewicz, Associate Vice President of Campus Planning, the pipes that had been in place were expected to last about 40 to 50 years. The problem had been apparent for some time: students who lived on Third Street were well aware of certain hot-spots and places where steam rose out of the ground. Bennington had also been aware of the problem, as Szalewicz told me in an email conversation:
"Last winter we hired an engineering consultant to evaluate all of the steam lines on campus. They identified the following three sections that need to be replaced: 3rd street, in front of Commons, and from Commons to the Barn & Tishman. In late spring 2013 the engineers started design and construction documents for all three sections. Given the condition of the 3rd street lines it was determined that they might not last another winter. The other two sections will be replaced next spring."
While replacing steam lines in front Commons and from Commons to the Barn and Tishman may seem like a fairly big inconvenience to students, it'll be one that pays off, as the new hot water lines will last for about 100 years.
When dealing with old pipes one concern that is fairly obvious is the presence of asbestos, and, if it was present, removing it so that it wouldn't harm either the students who live in the area, or the construction workers. Again, here's Szalewicz: "We expected to–and did encounter–some asbestos in this project. It was primarily concentrated in the mechanical rooms. As with all projects, we use a licensed abatement contractor to remove any hazardous material."
As for Third Street, the inconvenience of only having one full-time entrance should end soon. Work should be done by the end of this week, featuring newly planted trees and a new sidewalk, hopefully abating the need to jump over large puddles when it rains. On the downside, the Community style paintball war will probably not happen, not least because Third Street will no longer look like the trenches from the first World War.