Recent campus closure announcement

Written by: Gretchen Sims | Editor in Chief,  Jaylin Hardin | Sports Editor

Fall of 2021 marked the completion of the initial steam pipeline construction project; however, due to the lack of efficacy of the current pipeline, the vaults are now being replaced.

In an email sent on March 19, students were notified that “Work on the steam pipeline project will impact vehicle and pedestrian travel on Monmouth Avenue, starting March 26 through September 2024.” 

Also noted were the crosswalk closures on Church and Jackson Streets, as well as the parking closure on Church Street — all construction pathways will meet the Americans with Disabilities Act., ADA, specifications. 

Western, along with many other higher education institutes, uses steam to heat its campus, which runs through a series of pipes, vaults and boilers. What Western lacks for this system is tunnels to run the pipeline through every building, something that is vital to the system’s stability and maintenance. 

Due to the absent tunnel system, Western must bury the steam pipes directly in the ground. The steam system initially relied on cast iron pipes, which are durable and resistant to abrasion but not flexible and are prone to rusting. Due to the high acidity in Oregon soil, the pipes experienced rapid corrosion, and the initial project to repair this corrosion was compromised, prompting the new construction project. 

Groundbreaking begins on April 14. To prepare for this, 3,000 feet of fencing was put up over Spring Break to ensure student safety — with students getting trapped in the fenced off areas being a point of concern. 

Starting the second week of the spring term, signage will be posted around Western, breaking it into different quadrants. This signage is intended to direct people around campus so they don’t find themselves at a dead end and be forced to backtrack.

“I find it interesting, first of all, that this notice went out to campus about it being closed over spring break through September, but it’s open right now, which is confusing to me. Church Street parking is completely open when they said it was going to be closed from spring break,” said Sarah Lockwood, Western’s facilities scheduling manager. 

Jason Krawczyk, director of capital planning and construction, oversees all projects that require bringing in a contractor to campus or projects that are over a certain price threshold.

Krawczyk clarified the timings of the closure stating that access to Church Street from Monmouth Avenue is currently inaccessible, but Church Street will be fully fenced off, and the parking closure will be enforced, in the upcoming weeks — Jackson Street access, however, will be accessible until Summer Term. 

Krawczyk stated that the reason they ultimately decided to close Church Street is due to his staff’s commitment to student safety. Trucks will have to run from behind the New PE building up through Church Street, thus moving against the flow of traffic and posing a danger to not only vehicles, but also pedestrians and construction workers. If cars were parked on both sides of the road, vehicle operators would not be able to see pedestrians easily and pedestrians might not expect the vehicle to be there. 

Notice of the closure was not announced until the end of finals week, just days before the intended start of the project. Due to this short notice, questions were raised regarding the lack of information and prior notice. 

The first closure announcement was made through the @westernoregonuniversity Instagram page, four days before an email was sent out to the general student body. 

“We don’t put out any communication that hasn’t been approved and the approval process takes a long time. So it might seem like it is coming out last minute, but it’s because we only put out information that is 100 percent accurate,” said Krawczyk.

Many voiced concerns came from student veterans on campus regarding both students and community members who have served. Veterans already have limited exclusive parking spaces on campus — four spots for the one-hundred-plus veterans that Western serves — and usage of these spots requires both a Zone One parking pass and Veteran or Armed Forces license plates. 

One anonymous student veteran was concerned about how late the information was shared with the general student community. 

“The only official communication that I heard was through the Instagram post,” said the student veteran. “The rest was word of mouth from staff that were notified before us.”

The Veteran Resource Center, the VRC, puts on events throughout the year for all members of the Veteran community and those with connections to the Armed Forces. Another concern that arose from this is the parking access to the Werner University Center and, thus, the VRC, for disabled veterans from the community and their family members who attend these events. 

Mike Hanson, associate director of campus public safety, put the concerns regarding disabled veteran access to the VRC to rest. “The disability spots campus wide are reserved for any person who has a valid disability placard. They are able to park in any lot with any (Western) permit. That includes a guest day pass. If a person is a guest and is not eligible for a guest pass but has a valid disability placard they also have the ability to park at any meter without paying the meter. This is in accordance with state law ORS 811.635,” said Hanson.

However, some students have a better vision for the future of parking. “A few veterans have said that they wish they could park anywhere as long as they had the veteran plate and the parking pass,” said the student veteran. 

Employees who live on campus also spoke on various concerns about the closure of Church Street. 

“I can’t afford a parking pass because my wages don’t equal out to ‘just buy a parking pass,’” said one anonymous student employee. “You’d have to have another job… that’s the only spot I can park.”

Some Western employees who commute simply do not want to pay for a parking pass, as they may only spend a few days a week on campus — not making the cost of a parking pass worthwhile. Other students, staff and faculty concerns revolve around access to locations needed for commencement. Because Church Street will be fenced off during June, access to the New PE building and the football stadium will be limited. 

Krawczyk wants to reassure any event planning committees that “During any construction project, we’re willing to work with groups that have events happening on campus as long as we know about them ahead of time and can plan for them,” said Krawczyk. 

Access to Church Street will be made available for commencement.

Additionally, the closure of Church Street has caused a parking crisis among students and staff alike over the loss of free street parking. 

“I went for a walk today and I counted (the) parking spaces… there are 54 just normal parking spaces, there are four handicap-accessible parking spaces and there are three to four — depending on how many cars fit — 20-minute parking spots that are right by the front doors (of the WUC),”  said Lockwood.

Students share many concerns about the closure of Church Street, some of them include the fact that, because the announcement was so late notice, purchasing a parking pass was not an expense these students planned for. 

Church Street is city property and, therefore, Western is not responsible for the replacement of these spaces. However, the parking options now available to students are not comparable to the number or type of parking spaces lost due to the closure. 

Lockwood reached out to Parking Services in an attempt to request a suitable alternative for the loss of parking. “Parking services, when reaching out to them about the street being closed, they were very matter-of-fact about there not being any replacement parking. The street was going to be closed and the options were for students to use metered parking… or pay for a parking pass, or find street parking on the perimeter of campus,” said Lockwood.

On Lockwood’s walk around campus, she noted that there were approximately ten metered parking spaces and a few empty street parking spaces around the perimeter of campus, but these numbers will not make up for the 54 lost spaces that were filled. 

Addressing student concerns regarding the loss of handicapped spaces, Hanson said, “For any person to park in a disability spot anywhere on campus there are two requirements. The first requirement is having a valid WOU permit (this includes guest permits) and a valid disability placard.”

Despite the losses of the parking spaces on Church Street, Krawczyk and the construction crew on this project are doing their best to alleviate the issue. 

“With the student success center, I think it’s important to note that we worked closely with parking and actually paid for thirty spaces so that the construction people on that job site would not be taking the free public parking on the road. And the same thing is happening with this. By taking Lot E, for our laydown area and construction worker parking, that means that all of the added people brought to campus by this construction project will not be taking free parking from students. We know that we will have an influx in people and we try and make sure that they don’t… anger the community by parking in front of their houses at 6 a.m. in the morning with loud diesel trucks, and don’t anger our student population by when they show up for an 8 (a.m.) class and all the free parking is gone,” said Krawczyk.

One proposed resolution to the loss of parking spaces due to the closure is the opening of P Lot as a free parking Zone. There are a comparable amount of parking spaces in the lot as were lost from Church Street, and it is usually fairly empty. 

“In general with the road closure, like there should be a safe spot to park if there’s nowhere to park on Church Street. They should have everybody park in P Lot, but then have an officer on standby to walk everyone back,” said the anonymous student employee. 

Lockwood also recommended a few spots in H Lot be converted into 20-minute parking spaces for easy access to the WUC. 

Hanson reasoned against the handing out of free parking spaces saying, “…we were not able to just give out free parking to those that do not have (parking) permits. (This) would cause issues with the spring events that occur on that portion of campus including, but not limited to, Baseball and Track and Field events. The other issue would be the equality for those who have already purchased permits. The free parking would cause the issue of why some people have to pay for permits while others do not have to pay to park on campus.”

“We understand the effect that this closure has on the parking. (Western) Parking has worked with the city of (Monmouth) and Independence to provide an alternative resource to students, staff and faculty. The parking near campus and the nearby neighborhoods have had a longtime pressure on available street parking. The Monmouth Independence area was given funding to research and implement the MI Trolley service. This is a free ride service that travels from (Western)’s campus all the way to Riverfront (Park) in Independence. This service gives those without a permit a free option to ride to campus,” said Hanson.

“Unfortunately, the project is too long, it can’t just happen over the summer months, and we can’t do it, also, during the rainy season. So doing it spring and summer was really our only option,” said Krawczyk.

Contact the authors at and