Warwick is getting another roundabout, but this one, unlike those in Apponaug, isn’t on a state highway nor does it replace a signaled intersection. Rather, this roundabout is on the Knight Campus of CCRI, although its intended purpose is similar in improving traffic flow and safety.
The roundabout is one of the more publicly visible projects of a six-year, $22.3 million campus renewal effort now in its third year. The roundabout is at the center of what was once an expanse of asphalt where motorists had a choice between continuing straight under the megastructure or turning to either a first level entrance to the complex with short-term parking or longer term parking and what is termed the “back entrance” to the campus from Commonwealth Avenue. The road under the entrance ramp and between the two major components of the megastructure is now open only to emergency vehicles and police that will improve the safety of pedestrians crossing between buildings.
Safety was in the forefront in designing the roundabout as well as expediting access to the campus that on occasions, such as graduation, can have traffic backed up to the off-ramp of Route 95, said David Patten, vice president for business affairs, in an interview Tuesday.
To improve traffic flow, what was once a single lane in and out of the campus has been widened to double lanes in both directions. Patten said the state Department of Transportation favors creating a double left turn lane to the campus from the traffic signal that also serves the entrance to Rhode Island Mall. No timetable has been released on when double left turn lanes from East Avenue may be implemented.
“It was the Wild West here,” Patten said of the erratic traffic system.
It’s no wonder that traffic is an issue at the campus. The Knight Campus is the largest of the college’s four campuses, serving 40 percent of the college’s total enrollment of more than 15,000. It is also the oldest campus, having opened in the early 1970s. The renewal program is aimed at much more than improving the flow of traffic.
“It is to upgrade facilities and modernize the campus,” said Patten.
Other projects to be completed in this phase of work include improving the acoustics in the Great Hall, widening of the staircase from the second floor where the entry ramp enters to the lower level Great Hall, and a campus police office that will lend visibility to the police and provide information to visitors. Presently, the police dispatch is on the ground floor in the back of the building at the loading area. Also to be finished by the beginning of classes in September is the replacement of doors that are as old as the building and locks that are operated by cards and transponders in place of keys that tie into a record keeping system.
Signage is on the list of improvements this year. Interactive signs are on each of the floors except the sixth. They display the layout of that floor and, with a touch of the screen, the viewer can obtain directory listings and other information. The signs also display a listing of campus activities along with brief videos.
The so-called “classroom of the future” is also part of the renewal effort.
Patten said in coordination with the faculty, the college established three prototype classrooms using different technologies. With feedback from professors the college arrived at three to four types of classrooms using a mix of technologies from the prototypes.
“We let the faculty try it out [different models] and waited to get their input,” said Patten. The conclusion was that no one technology was a panacea.
“One size does not fit all,” said Patten.
About 10 classrooms will be upgraded with the newer technology each year with all the classrooms being addressed over three years.
Among those projects completed under the renewal program are interior trim repainting, digital entry signage at the East Avenue entrance, Student Government, clubs and student union expansion, new pavilion at rear of campus and restroom lobby privacy panels. Other projects in progress are elevator upgrades, office furniture replacement and hi-tech audio/visual capabilities in the Great Hall.
As part of future projects, the entry ramp will be enclosed with a new entrance to the theater portion of the structure and Great Hall furniture upgrades.