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Walkway at The Boden to Columbia overpass slated for April completion

UND sophomore McKenzie Klocke has lived at The Boden for months, and she said the construction project growing alongside the student apartments--rife with 20-foot pylons and cordoned with orange plastic fencing--will make a big impact.

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ICS General Contractor workers make progress on a walkway from Boden apartments building to the Columbia Road overpass. The structure is being built to stop residents from jaywalking across DeMers Avenue and being a safety threat. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

UND sophomore McKenzie Klocke has lived at The Boden for months, and she said the construction project growing alongside the student apartments-rife with 20-foot pylons and cordoned with orange plastic fencing-will make a big impact.

The new development is a raised walkway set to link the third floor of the 390-person building to the pedestrian portion of the nearby Columbia Road overpass. On track to cost the apartment complex's developers more than $300,000, the project makes it easier for UND students to get to class and helps combat a jaywalking problem that's seen students rushing directly across DeMers Avenue to cross the bridge to campus.

"It takes too long," Klocke said of the prescribed route to class. In order to reach campus without jaywalking, she said, students are expected to take a walk down DeMers Avenue before crossing at a nearby stoplight and walking back to access the overpass.

"When it's cold, I usually just drive, but I almost never go down to the light ... I don't think anyone does," she said. "Especially in the morning, when you're tight on a deadline to class."

Construction on The Boden finished in August, and though plans initially called for stairway access to the overpass walkway, Grand Forks City Engineer Al Grasser said it was difficult to make those plans align with regulations that govern access for disabled individuals.

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As a result, the project was finished without direct access to the overpass, and in the months preceding the finalization of the new walkway plan, the jaywalking problem began to surface.

But the skyway could solve the bulk of those problems, he said.

"It seems to be probably the optimal solution. It allows the students to stay in the warm, climate-controlled part of the building for the longest amount of time," he said. "You'll still get people who still aren't taking that route, but by making it convenient and accommodating, we'll maximize that."

Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel said his department stands behind any project that can provide more safety for the public, though he said the jaywalking issue has quieted down somewhat.

"I know initially there was an awful big uproar because of the traffic problems and near-crashes and the perception of danger. That doesn't seem to be prevalent anymore," he said, though he stressed that doesn't meant there's no longer a problem. "It's either drivers are becoming more cognizant ... or pedestrians are becoming more careful."

Mark Bell, the co-founder of Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, which owns the apartments, said the project should be finished and operational by mid-April.

"I think this will be a great asset for the Grand Forks community, whereby the residents at that project will not need a car," Bell said. "The skyway bridge will be a tremendous amenity that will create that pedestrian atmosphere that we set out to achieve."

UND junior Eric Hovsepian, another student who said he is looking forward to using the skyway, pointed out that while it helps get students to class more quickly, it should also help keep them out of a long walk in the cold during winter months.

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"It's convenient," he said. "It's going to save us a lot of time."

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