By this time next year, “I was waiting for a train,” will no longer be a possible excuse for arriving late to class. Engineering and design of a pedestrian railroad underpass is currently underway for Goshen College.

The underpass will provide a route for pedestrians to safely cross the railroad tracks – which run through the Goshen College campus – in the case of a stopped train. “The point of the project is to improve safety,” said Jim Histand, vice president for finance.

Goshen College has had federal approval for the project for about a year and a half, but complicated communication with the railroad company, Norfolk Southern Corporation, has resulted in only recent engineering efforts.

The college will pay $30,500 for a preliminary engineering study to secure design details and make sure the project will not damage the railroad tracks. Federal funding will cover 80 percent of the costs, leaving the college to cover the difference.

Consideration of an overpass was also explored. Aesthetic appeal, increased cost and height restrictions imposed by the railway caused engineers to choose the underpass option.

After the initial underpass study, engineers determined that the first projected location, between the Good Library and Umble Center, is too risky due to the underground pipe system from the steam plant east of Wyse Hall.

The anticipated location is now north of the steam plant, on the railroad crossing between Wyse Hall and Umble Center. Layouts for the underpass are only speculative at this point, but Histand said the underpass will likely involve a ramp underneath the tracks, with stairway access on the side.

Construction for the project will be tricky, as trains run through campus on a daily basis. In addition, the railroad won’t allow the tracks to be interrupted for more than 12 hours, which will force workers to be extremely efficient during construction of the underpass.

According to Histand, construction days will likely be on Christmas Day 2009, or New Years Day 2010 since trains are minimally active on such holidays.

The railway underpass project is part of the city bike path improvement project, which hopes to bring an additional underpass under State Road 119 by Shanklin Park.