In 1998, the Board of Visitors passed a resolution endorsing the Groundswalk, a system of pathways with the purpose of unifying the University's Grounds, increasing the level of safety for pedestrians and cyclists and contributing to transportation efficiency. A crucial component of Jefferson's vision for the University was a system of walks and passages which connected residences, classrooms, dining halls and the Rotunda. Today, the University has grown far beyond Jefferson's Academical Village. The Groundswalk concept seeks to forge new pedestrian connections among its various academic neighborhoods. It is a fundamental element in the University's Master Plan for the twenty-first century.
The University experienced its greatest growth in the period from 1960 to 1975, when the student population more than doubled. It was during this time that the organization of the University's new buildings and grounds drifted away from the intent and clarity of the original planning principles established by Jefferson. The links between the core academic areas and graduate schools were lost. The University community became more dependent on the automobile and its pedestrian scale diminished. Expansion continued in the 1980's and 1990's, resulting in increased traffic, hazardous street crossings, inadequate parking and a loss of cohesiveness. Interestingly, the physical distances between precincts are not great, but busy thoroughfares have created formidable barriers to pedestrian flow.
The Groundswalk project seeks to alleviate these problems in several ways. First, bridges will take pedestrians and cyclists safely over busy roadways. Secondly, parking will be concentrated at entry points into the University, such as U-Hall, the Medical Center and Scott Stadium. In conjunction with an improved pedestrian environment, this strategy will help to stem the demand for more parking on Central Grounds. Thirdly, traffic will be restricted in congested central grounds roadways, giving more emphasis on foot and bike traffic and less to automobiles. This is especially important along McCormick Road where existing sidewalks are not ample enough for the amount of pedestrians that traverse back and forth on a daily basis. The congestion of traffic, on-street parking, UTS buses, CTS buses and tourist buses all detract immensely from the historic nature of McCormick Road and diminish the visitor's experience of the University.
The first phase of the Groundswalk is currently under construction as the Emmet Street Pedestrian Bridge. This bridge takes foot and bike traffic over four lanes of traffic, and links north and central grounds between Lambeth Housing and U-Hall. An on-grade trail will run from the east abutment of the bridge behind the Lambeth Colonnade to existing sidewalks along University Way. When completed, a pedestrian will be able to walk from the Darden School to central grounds in fifteen minutes.
Sketches of the Groundswalk Concept:
McCormick Road Historic Area
McCormick Road West
Trail behind Lambeth Colonnades