Renovations to Observatory Drive will shut down the road for two weeks, moving bus route 81 off the street. The road will reopen Feb. 26 and will be a westbound only roadway.[/media-credit]

Observatory Drive will once again be closed to traffic beginning today because of a construction project intended to provide a new electrical connection to the Lakeshore residence halls.

A statement from the University of Wisconsin Transportation Services said Observatory Drive will be closed between Feb. 14 and Feb. 25. The closure will affect the stretch of Observatory between Charter Street and Babcock Drive. Rob Kennedy, a transportation planner for UW Transportation, said the construction project will place insulated pipes in a concrete conduit.

“This part of the project crossing Observatory Drive near the [UW] Soil Science [building] will provide a new connection to the Lakeshore Residence Halls,” Kennedy said. “It’s used for everything from heat to hot water to cooking.”

Kennedy said each construction project on campus is required to have a traffic control plan, and for the Observatory Drive project, the focus will be on maintaining pedestrian traffic control. 

“In this case, there will be pedestrian ‘bridges’ to take pedestrians from one side of the street to the other when a sidewalk needs to be removed,” Kennedy said.

On the UW campus, Kennedy said there are two-to-five utility projects that are considered major undertakings in a given year. Usually, UW Transportation Services waits until after school is released to start major projects, but Kennedy said this year they made an exception.

“This summer we will make Observatory Drive one-way westbound only to the east, between Park Street and Bascom Hill,” Kennedy said.

Drew Beck, transit planning and schedule manager for UW Transportation Services, said the only route that is substantially affected by the upcoming closure is Route 81, which operates after 6:30 p.m.

The new route will travel westbound down to Linden Drive between Charter Street and Babcock Drive.

Beck said UW Transportation Services does frequently place detours on bus routes during peak construction season.

“We design detours to be as minimally disruptive as possible and also to be understandable to customers,” Beck said.

Beck said the stop adjacent to Elizabeth Waters Hall will be the only stop the closure will affect. 

Students can catch the detoured bus at the following stops: on Observatory Drive at Charter Street, or at any of the westbound stops along Linden Drive between Charter Street and Babcock Drive or on Observatory Drive at Babcock Drive.

After Feb. 25, the 81 bus route will go back to its regular route. On Feb. 26, Observatory Drive will reopen to one-way traffic. The traffic will flow westbound for approximately 2 months.