You Shall Not Overpass: Road closures and wintry conditions toughen the commute for OU students

By Oona Goodin-Smith

As we Michiganders have come to find out the hard way this arctic winter, the highway to hell is paved with potholes and painfully slow commute times.

Most recently, the I-75 overpass off of University Drive was closed on Friday, January 17 for construction after crews found its beams to be deteriorating and in “critical condition,” according to Michigan Department of Transportation spokeswoman Diane Cross.

“I’m always late to class now because of the road conditions,” said frustrated commuter and OU sophomore Kasib Ahmad. “I know it had to be done, but closing the overpass just made the drive worse.”

The overpass, a gateway to OU from I-75 for many Grizzly commuters, was built in 1963 and “on [MDOT’s] watchlist” for repair, said Cross. “You can actually see daylight” through the beams, she said.

With nearly 20,000 students and 2,000 faculty and staff members driving to OU each day, it was crucial to spread word of the sudden closure quickly.

Oakland quickly posted news of the temporary shutdown on its website and social media and distributed a mass email alerting students and staff of the closure and providing them with alternative routes until the construction was over.

“We wanted to provide them with good alternates,” said OU Director of Media Relations Brian Bierley.

As of Friday, January 22, the bridge was reopened after workers installed nine temporary support beams against the median. MDOT will collaborate with county and local officials to determine a plan for a long-term fix for the overpass, according to Cross.

Despite the reopening of the overpass, the patience of students appears to still be on thin ice as their traveling woes are far from over.

“I’ve been taking M-59 [to and from school], but traffic gets backed up there, too, so [commuting] is annoying either way,” said Ahmad. “I go to school really early, so if it snows at night, the local roads are also impossible to drive on.”

You can get updates on the latest road closures and weather conditions by visiting www.michigan.gov/mdot.

[Sidebar]

While it looks as though winter is here to stay, it doesn’t mean you have to turn a cold shoulder to the idea of your drive to OU. Here are a few ways to remain cozy and stress-free on your commute, according to huffingtonpost.com:

1. “Take control over your commuting decisions.” Remind yourself why you’re headed to your destination and that it’s your choice to be there. Consider the alternatives to your decisions.

2.“Find enjoyable activities to pass the time.” Embrace time spent in your car as “time to yourself” and fill it with things you enjoy, from listening to a book on tape to catching up with a friend or loved one with hands-free calling.

3.“Listen to classical music.” According to a Populus survey of 2,000 drivers, pop and classical listeners are much more relaxed on the road than those who listen to rock and metal. Relaxing music has also been shown to decrease anxiety.

4.“Use your commute as an opportunity to be more mindful.” It may be easy to wallow in negative emotions, the anxiety of your commute, or the stress from your day. Instead, try using your car ride as an opportunity to become aware of your thoughts and feelings, without judgment.

5. “Unplug.” Technology can often play a big part in increasing our stress levels. Embrace your commute time as one to turn the power off and recharge your mind.