Footbridge stairwell deemed unsafe

Earlier this semester, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation closed a stairway leading to the Route 9 footbridge after one of the concrete steps broke off.

According to an email from MassDOT spokesperson Amanda Richard, MassDOT – which is responsible for the maintenance of the pedestrian crossing – closed the stairway after “inspection confirmed reports of the poor condition of concrete stairs, raising concerns with safety.”

Junior Morgan Asta has started a petition that urging the DOT to replace the entire bridge. Asta said she has collected 200 signatures from both students and faculty.

Asta said she believes that the bridge needs to be repaired because it does not seem safe. “You can feel the whole thing move when a car drives underneath,” she said.

Asta added that she believes the bridge does not meet safety requirements for a structure of its type.

In her email, Richard said, “MassDOT will recommend initiating a project for replacing the bridge” after replacing the stairs this summer.

However, the proposal to replace the stairs is not the only plan the DOT is looking at to improve route 9 pedestrian traffic. Another proposal attempting to solve the problem suggests the installation of a pedestrian crosswalk further down route 9 at Maynard road.

MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes said that although each project may be planned and funded separately, there is a possibility that one might take precedence over the other, though it isn’t clear which would be the priority.

As of right now, the footbridge itself is still accessible via a handicapped ramp located near the stairs. However, some students believe that the decision to close the stairs came too late.

Graduate student Nick Magliozzi said he has not used the stairs in “a couple of years, but even back then, they didn’t feel safe.” He added that he believes the entire structure “was not very good,” and that he was not surprised that an entire stair crumbled off the stairway. “I always took the handicapped ramp anyway.”

Nicole Gonzalves, a senior, said, “The stairs have been pretty messed up,” and even before they were closed, she almost fell off of them “a few times.”

Sophomore Sam Stratton said, “You know, if a stair fell off, they probably should have done it earlier.”

Senior Don Freedman said he does not believe the bridge complies with regulations. Freedman stated he believed that the steepness and height of the stairs are “wacky” and added, “I don’t know if they are regulation – I just don’t know if they comply.”

Some students said they were concerned is the bridge was falling apart in one place, other parts of the bridge might potentially fall apart as well – a worry Verseckes said is a “logical concern for students to have.”

Senior Vice President Dale Hamel said in the past, FSU has contacted the DOT with any safety concerns the University has had with the bridge and the DOT “has been responsible about coming out and repairing the bridge over the years.” He added that this time, when the DOT was called to repair the stairs, it was decided that the repairs could not be made and the stairs were closed to the public.

Hamel added that he believes “any efforts by students to highlight these safety issues will be beneficial.”

Senior Diana McDonald said she believes that “shutting down those stairs and deciding to repair them was long overdue.”

She added when she uses the footbridge, “I don’t feel safe. There is no real sidewalk, and the stairs were always really steep. … That footbridge is kind of a pain in the ass.”