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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities


Project overview

Q: Why is this project happening?

A: Michigan State University uses steam to heat campus buildings. The steam is generated at the T.B. Simon Power Plant on south campus and distributed to most campus buildings via an intricate network of steam tunnels. Some of the steam tunnels, on MSU’s historic north campus, are more than 100 years old and in desperate need of repair to avoid failures of steam delivery to north campus buildings, including residence halls, academic buildings, Olin Health Center and the MSU Union. This West Circle Steam Loop project will address all of those needed repairs and ensure reliable steam service to this part of campus. Additional core infrastructure improvements will be made in conjunction with the steam upgrades, including water main, telecommunication and electrical upgrades. It will occur in four segments spanning the summers of 2012 to 2015, with the 2012 segment featuring four phases.

Q: When will this project begin?
A: Phase 1 of the 2012 segment begins in mid-February at the west end of the project from the area near the Union building and to the west (reference the phasing location diagram here.) No roads will close or be detoured at this time although West Circle Drive will periodically be reduced to one flow-through traffic lane. Some of the on-street parking west of Cowles House on Circle Drive will be inaccessible.

Q: What hours will the construction work take place?
A: 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Noisy construction will not take place the last week of classes or exam week.

Q: Will the project interrupt any services to my building?
A: Yes, some utilities may be interrupted (electrical, computer, phone) as upgrades are made to those systems, but they should be very minimal, short in duration, and will be scheduled in advance and coordinated as possible for low-use times like nights or weekends. Emergency shutdowns, of course, are possibilities on all construction projects, but will be avoided.

Q: Why are there so many phases?
A: Just as the project is being segmented over four years to ensure minimum impacts to campus while maintaining maximum efficiency of all systems included in the project scope, the same reasons exist for phasing it so intricately over the summer of 2012.

Q: Can any of the phases be flipped?
A: Unfortunately, no. They are all intertwined and one phase’s start is contingent on the previous phase’s finish, or certain activities in the previous phase being finished or mostly finished.

Q: How deep in the ground are the tunnels?
A: It varies. Steam tunnels, sewers, water and telecom duct banks vary between four and 13 feet deep. Some of the sewers being replaced are as deep as 20 feet.

Q: Will trees be removed as part of this project?
A: Yes. There are approximately a dozen mature trees that will be removed as part of this project. Many of the trees that are being removed are struggling to survive due to lightning damage or degrading health and would have been removed anyway in the near future for safety reasons. The utility engineers worked very closely with the campus arborist and woody plants curator to minimize the impact on mature trees. There will be a significant effort to protect trees on this project with tree protection fence and pre-construction root pruning. Some selective trees are also being transplanted. The project also includes a replanting budget to restore the disturbed landscape features and replant new trees at the project completion.

Q; What about special events and conferences that bring many visitors to this part of campus? Are they aware of this project?
A: Project planners have been working diligently to meet with the various stakeholders impacted by this project, including special event and conference coordinators. For more information on the project and how it may impact your event, please consider attending a Construction Junction meeting, or contact Communications Manager Karen Zelt at or (517) 432-3624, if you’d like to coordinate a special meeting for your organization.

Transportation, mobility, and parking   

Q: How will I know what roads are closed and what the detours are?

A: The construction zones will be signed with closure dates and the designated detour routes. For advance information and detour maps, visit the Construction Detours page.

Q; Will pedestrian access be maintained through the work zones?
A: Pedestrian access will be maintained where it safely can be, and the pedestrian routes will move as the project activity dictates. The routes will be signed, and pedestrians are encouraged strongly to use the signed routes for safety and security.

Q; Will parking spots be lost in this project?
A: Yes, the eight westernmost parking spots on West Circle (across from Yakeley Hall at the Beal Street intersection) will be removed to accommodate the new T-intersection that will go in at West Circle and the Beal Street intersection.

Q: Will CATA bus stops be impacted?
A: Yes, but the specific changes are not yet known. MSU planners are working closely with CATA to coordinate any changes. 

Health and safety   

Q: Will access to Olin Health Center be maintained?

A: Access to Olin will be maintained at all times, but the access options shift as the phases progress. When East Circle Drive closes after the East Lansing Art Fair, visitors traveling by car will access Olin through the Grand River Avenue parking ramp (ramp No. 6). All visitors by vehicle Olin vehicles will need to enter and exit the ramp from Grand River Avenue. An emergency entrance/exit at the north side of Olin will be maintained for emergency vehicles only.

Q; I usually park in front of Olin when I visit. Will that meter parking be maintained?
A: No. The metered parking south of Olin will move inside ramp 6. Temporary parking tokens will be available for appointments and pharmacy pick-ups.

Q: Will this project be loud?
A: Yes, it will include many different noises that come with major construction zones: Excavation equipment, trucks and back-up alarms. Noisy work will be suspended the week before finals week and during finals week (April 23-May 4) to allow for peaceful study time.

Q: Will this project be dusty?
A: The earth-moving involved in the project will create dust, but there will be strict dust provisions to limit dust that leaves the site.

Final exams and graduation

Q: Will any provisions be made to limit noise during final exams (April 30 to May 4)?

A: Yes, noisy construction activities will be suspended during exam week and the week prior, so students cannot cite this project for low exam scores.

Q: Will any provisions be made to limit impacts to visitors on campus for spring commencements (May 4-6)?
A: Road closures and detours will not occur until after spring commencements. The construction zones will be limited to the areas identified as phase 1 and will be confined to within the construction fence. There will be plenty of undisturbed landscape for graduation photo opportunities. 

East Lansing Art Festival

Q: How will this project affect the East Lansing Art Festival?

A: The East Lansing Art Fair, including most of the traditional vendor areas south of the Union Building and south of Berkey Hall on campus, will continue on as has been the traditional practice. A small area near Morrill Hall will be fenced off under but most of the areas will be unchanged. Traffic flow for vendors has been coordinated in advance.

Communication materials, progress updates, available resources

Q: How can I keep up to speed on the project’s progress?

A: Visit the project page for project information and updates. Also, the project will be featured on the agenda every month until completion at the Physical Plant’s monthly Construction Junction meetings. Project representatives will discuss completed work, upcoming work and corresponding impacts to the campus community and visitors.

Q: How will I know how to navigate my way through that part of campus as the phases progress?
A: Visit the Construction Detours page for detour maps reflecting each project phase, and including other detours on campus due to different construction projects.

Q: Is there other construction work going on in East Lansing in addition to on-campus work?
A: The City of East Lansing does manage its own construction projects. Visit the City of East Lansing’s Construction Projects page for more information. Also visit the Michigan Department of Transportation’s website for MDOT project information.