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The hardy walkers who make the trek up or down the Lafayette stairs leading to the north end of Third Street will use a safer, more attractive walkway in a couple months.

Work began at the end of June on a $400,000 project to reset the steps, replace the asphalt with cast-in-place concrete, and install new light standards. Some minor work also is being done on the railing. Expected to finish in September, the project covers the pathway and stairs from the Civil War monument between Ruef and Keefe Halls down to the archway at the bottom of the stairs.

“The steps are made from slabs of stone,” says Bruce Ferretti, director of physical planning and plant operations. “They are moved over the years by the freeze and thaw cycles. Sometimes the mortar used to support the stones disintegrates or partially fails, and the stones are displaced. Some are wobbly. They just need to be pulled up, bedded properly, and put down in place so they look like they did when they were originally put in.”

The addition of the Williams Visual Arts Building to the campus in the 2000-2001 school year increased the need to improve the safety and appearance of the walkway, adds Ferretti, noting that some students will take the stairs to classes there.

New lights will greatly increase visibility in the area. “The type of light standard will be very similar to those at Kirby Hall of Civil Rights and Keefe Hall — like old gas lamps,” says Ferretti. “This will give them a uniform look and should highlight the path. We will probably also do some pruning and planting to make it an inviting place for people to walk.”

The difficulty in accessing the sloped area led to the project’s steep price tag. “Most contractors are a little leery of taking on this kind of job,” notes Ferretti. “It’s difficult because you can’t get big equipment in there to do the work.”

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