Using five pairs of large golden scissors, members of the UF and Gainesville community cut the red ribbon stretching across the newly constructed Newell Gateway Wednesday morning.
The ribbon cutters were also the five speakers during the ceremony: UF President Kent Fuchs, Mayor Lauren Poe, UF senior vice president Charlie Lane, Travis Humphries, Florida Department of Transportation director of operations for District 2 and Linda Dixon, UF director of planning for planning, design and construction.
The ceremony marked the completion of the gateway, which sits between Library West and Keene-Flint Hall, and its sister project, the Northeast Gateway on the corner of campus near the Warrington College of Business. UF started both projects in Summer 2021 as a part of the Landscape Master Plan, which is meant to improve green spaces on campus and student walkability.
The project also comes in response to pedestrian safety concerns about the area the gateways reside — West University Avenue.
In December 2020, UF student Margaret Paxton was killed in a hit-and-run while walking on West University Avenue, near Ben Griffin Hill Stadium. Just a month later, in January 2021, UF student Sophia Lambert was killed and four others were injured on West University Avenue as a car skidded onto the sidewalk they were walking on, prompting student petitions for more safety measures on the street.
The Newell Gateway leads from West University Avenue onto a pedestrian-only walkway, running alongside Plaza of the Americas. It’s framed by two brick columns, and sits across from Wawa, near Midtown clubs like Grog, The Social and JJ’s.
The gateway is just one of many efforts to make the area safer in past years, Fuchs said.
“We have all, over the past several years, experienced the tragic losses of lives on University Avenue behind us,” Fuchs said. “Yet, those losses have also galvanized our institutions to come together to build new solutions.”
In his speech, Fuchs said the Florida Department of Transportation will also install a pedestrian traffic light across from the gateway to aid people crossing from the other side of the street.
The Landscape Master Plan’s ultimate goal is to move cars, buses and other vehicles to the edges of campus and to make pedestrian travel to campus safer, he said.
The crosswalk at the intersection of Northwest 16th Street and West University Avenue will be widened as well to accommodate more people walking to the gateway, said Humphries.
UF remains committed to bolstering safety efforts, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando said.
“We know there’s a lot of heavy pedestrian traffic along University Avenue,” Orlando said. “Pedestrian safety has been a significant concern and priority of ours.”
The gateway will help lead foot traffic off the road and onto campus in a more efficient way, Orlando said. The Landscape Master Plan also intends on closing off some roads on campus that allow for cars to pass through, he said.
Contact Siena at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SienaDuncan.
Siena Duncan is a sophomore journalism major and the graduate school beat reporter for the Alligator. When she's not out reporting, she's typically bothering her friends about podcasts or listening to Metric on repeat.