After spending more than a year sneaking through a fenced-off bridge to quickly reach the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus, students living at University Place Apartments may soon have a safer bridge to cross.
Lafayette city-parish government this month approved a contract with 200 Oakcrest LLC, which owns the apartment property, transfering bridge ownership to the company so it can construct a private pedestrian bridge.
In return, the city will give Oakcrest $100,000 to build the bridge and to repair any damage done to the coulee during the flood. The pedestrian bridge will cost an estimated $700,000.
City-Parish Director of Public Works Tom Carroll said the agreement settles discrepancies in whether the bridge is public or private — as well as whether the city or Oakcrest owned the faulty bridge.
“When it was built … for the apartment complex to have their people and residents be able to cross the bridge and get onto the UL campus, I think there was a document that said, ‘And we hereby dedicate that (bridge) to the city of Lafayette,’” he said. “Our attorneys are not quite sure whether or not that conveyance actually conveyed the rights of the bridge.”
In April 2015, the city determined the bridge to be unstable and fenced off the area. UL-Lafayette provided students with shuttle services to campus in the fall semester when the university leased the complex after on-campus residence halls filled up. However, the closure didn’t stop students from cutting holes in the fence and using the path.
Some off-campus students are walking the extra mile or so to get to school while others are …
Andrea Ferrão, a sophomore majoring in economics who lived in UPA during the 2016 spring semester, said she frequented the bridge, and stopped only when police would watch the bridge for trespassers.
“Without the bridge, it’d be utterly difficult for students that don’t have any mode of transportation,” she said. “UPA is one of the closest places to campus and affordable to students. If not for the bridge, I suppose people would try to look for places near Cajun Field so that they could avail the bus.”
The bridge, which connects the property with Lewis Street, joins private and public property — a situation that Carroll, the public works director, said is both rare and problematic for private property owners.
“Coming off Johnston, there (are) a couple of streets that lead up to the apartment complex,” he said. “Then you go into the apartment complex, which means you’re going across private property to get back to a public road.”
Christopher Gastinell, a junior public relations major who has lived at UPA for three months, said people still frequently use the bridge. The letters on the bridge sign that says “coming soon” have faded.
“I think it’s sad how long they’ve had that bridge,” he said. “That bridge has been out for a good two years now … People pay rent there, and now they can’t even go straight to their apartment.”
Carroll said the bridge left the city with two options: to rebuild or to enter an agreement with Oakcrest.
“It is vital to maintain that connection to the parking complex, so we participated in providing (part of the) cost of what it would have taken us to demolish the bridge, and then they will provide all the other engineering and construction funding to construct a pedestrian walkway.”
Joey Pons, director of public safety for UL-Lafayette, said the university is glad an agreement was reached.
“Even though we may not have any of our students under lease with the university, we know that students live at UPA apartments,” he said.