Tiverton Drive permanently closed to through traffic on Friday, causing mixed reactions among those who frequent the surrounding area.
Access along the street is now only open to vehicles coming from Charles E. Young Drive South to Parking Structure E and access from Le Conte Avenue will only be to the Center for Health Sciences parking structure.
Although the removal of through traffic will alleviate safety concerns for pedestrians and bicyclists, questions have been raised about the accessibility to the dental and medical schools for commuters who drive.
The closure is necessary for the expansion of the David Geffen School of Medicine’s new Teaching and Learning Center for Health Sciences building, which has an estimated completion date set for 2016.
Funding for the $120 million project will come from the UCLA Health System reserves and philanthropic gifts. Costs associated with the bike/pedestrian path are included in the overall cost of the Teaching and Learning Center project and have not been broken down separately, said UCLA spokeswoman Rebecca Kendall.
The transition of Tiverton Avenue is partly the result of efforts from the school’s Healthy Campus Initiative, which aims to foster a culture of mental and physical health and wellness.
New racks to accommodate 75 bikes will be installed alongside the east side of the new Teaching and Learning Center.
The Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens will also undergo several enhancements, such as upgrading the gardens’ infrastructure, developing a new entrance and improving accessibility for the disabled.
More people will be able to to walk and bike on campus as opposed to constantly using driving as a mode of transportation, said David Karwaski, a senior associate director of planning, policy, and traffic systems.
“After the botanical gardens are finished with renovations it would be nice to take a moment to relax and walk through them in the middle of the day,” Karwaski said.
Students and visitors are excited about an area designated only for pedestrians and cyclists, but some are concerned with the maneuverability around campus.
Hyeran Lee, the advocacy chair of the UCLA Bicycle Coalition and a graduate student in urban and regional planning, has met with Karwaski and UCLA Transportation about improving on-campus and off-campus bicycle conditions over the last year.
Lee added that the coalition supports any bicycle facilities in and out of Westwood that would make it more convenient for cyclists to have access to north campus and make the school more accessible for visitors.
Employees and visitors at the UCLA School of Dentistry said the construction project presents more confusion and inconvenience for newcomers to the campus.
Vincent Chan, an administrative assistant at the UCLA School of Dentistry, said his primary concern regarding the construction would be informing patients and other visitors if they are unfamiliar with the school’s campus.
Yolanda Garcia, a first-time visitor to the dental school, said if she drove here regularly and could not have access to the dental school through Tiverton Avenue, she would be discouraged from coming back.
Other visitors along Tiverton Avenue see the value in the construction project, but raise different concerns other than accessibility.
Yan Wang, a graduate student in public health who has attended UCLA for four years and uses Tiverton Avenue daily, said she believes bicycles should be treated like vehicles, and there wasn’t a problem with sharing the road with them beforehand.
“I envision bicyclists using the sidewalks, not the road,” Wang said. “I’m more concerned with patients having problems accessing the dental and medical school and there being a miscommunication about where you could drive.”
Temporary signage has been placed around the construction to guide drivers and visitors through the campus, but Wang drives to school almost every day and is still confused because she doesn’t know her limitations as a driver.
Karwaski said he and others concerned with the project have communicated extensively with the Capital Programs department, dean of the dental school and medical school employees to make sure patients and visitors are well taken care of and know where to go.
The construction project will be completed by fall 2016, Karwaski said.