The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Steam tunnel construction to conclude in October

3 min read
Steam tunnel construction UMW

The steam tunnel construction disrupts foot traffic outside of Woodard Hall. | Annabelle Blake


Staff Writer

The University of Mary Washington entered a contract with Athena Construction over the summer of 2021 to begin the renovation of campus steam, water and sanitary tunnels. The construction is ongoing and will not be completed until October.

Anna Billingsley, associate vice president of University Relations, spoke on the purpose of the renovations and how long they will continue. 

“This phase of construction, including steam, water and sanitary sewer renovations, will wrap up during October,” she said. These renovations aim to provide several benefits to the overall energy and environmental infrastructure of the University. The last but current renovation is located outside of Woodard Hall.  

These steam line systems use a separate fuel source such as coal, gas or oil to generate steam. The steam then is used to heat up buildings or used to generate hot water. 

“The steam work will improve delivery to campus buildings for heat and hot water, saving energy costs by improving insulation and eliminating leaks,” said Billingsley. 

Older steam pipes, like those currently under renovation at UMW, do not recycle their steam. However, with the addition of modern steam line technology, the heat is recycled and leads to less overall pollution. 

In addition, steam lines are also being replaced outside of Woodard Hall with renovations also being performed on the university’s sanitary system. “Sanitary sewer work eliminates system leaks providing a general environmental improvement,” said Billingsley. 

UMW decided to make these renovations due to the older, varying ages of these steam lines. 

“The oldest sections date from the 1950s. The most recent renovation was completed in 1998,” said Billingsley. 

The first phase of summer construction aimed to repair the water lines that range from Jefferson Hall to Lee Hall. 

“Water service is improved by replacing calcified interiors with clean pipe, providing increased volume,” said Billingsley. 

Secondly, UMW began steam line renovations outside of Mason and Randolph halls, replacing several steam lines that were considered outdated. The construction company then renovated other steam lines outside of Westmoreland, Ball and Virginia Halls.

To cut off these areas of current construction, Athena Construction has placed temporary fencing outside of Woodard Hall, closing off the path from Melchers Hall to the seating area located outside of Woodard Hall. 

The ADA route has also been temporarily re-routed through Woodard Hall. 

Athena Construction is also required to provide appropriate signage for both directions of temporary routing. The contractor has also included a wooden ramp that lies over steam line construction. 

With the addition of construction on campus this year, some students expressed how they felt about the temporary construction and its impact on daily life. 

“The construction on campus definitely hurts the scenery a little bit,” said junior computer science major Justin Mundie. “I wish they could finish everything in the summer and leave it off campus during the semester but I understand if they need to renovate now.”  

Other students worry about the congestion of people caused by the construction. 

“I definitely have some concerns about the way they have set up the campus walk because of the construction,” said junior computer science major Benjamin Steele. “The area by Woodard just becomes so congested after classes let out. It raises COVID concerns due to how close in proximity everyone is.” 

The construction outside of Woodard will be complete by October 2021. “The next phase will begin in May 2022,” said Billingsley. 

Shannon Kehoe contributed to reporting for this article.