When students returned to the University of Maryland for the start of the fall semester, they found orange fences placed around McKeldin Mall after it underwent construction over the summer.
Students could see these fences again this fall as the mall faces the second phase of its renovation.
The plan's first phase aimed to implement new storm lines and prevent excessive flooding during heavy rain, said Jack Baker, the interim executive director of operations and maintenance for Facilities Management. This summer, workers aim to replace old water lines.
"The water line is part of the invisible crisis for infrastructure on campus; it's a very old water line, and we just need to replace it," he said. "It's failed several times, and there have been water pipe breaks."
[Read more: McKeldin Mall won't reopen until mid-September]
Replacing these water lines in phase two will cost more than $1 million, and phase one cost more than $2 million, said Bill Olen, capital projects director.
This upcoming construction comes with a smaller price tag because the team is limiting how much work it is trying to complete. Last summer, problems with permits made it hard to finish by the start of the fall semester, Olen said.
"We didn't finish as quick as we wanted to last summer," he said. "We plan on not doing as much work [this year] to make sure we're done before the students come back to campus."
The team will put the new pipe in place before taking out the old one, but the challenge is every type of pipe — water, steam, gas, storm drains — runs underground, Baker said. As a result, the new pipes have to be directed so they don't collide with anything else.
"It sounds easy in a way, but it can be a complex and difficult project, especially when you don't necessarily know exactly where some of these older lines are," he said. "For things that were put in the ground 60 years or so ago, the records over time aren't as accurate as we'd like them to be."
Water lines run under every road and parking lot on the campus, and they provide water for drinking, irrigation and labs, Olen said.
"We have pipes under the mall that range anywhere from 80 years old to 60 to 40 — you name it," Baker said. "Some of our oldest pipes on campus run through the mall because they service the buildings around the mall, and the buildings around the mall are some of the oldest ones on campus."
Olen noted the major changes from the construction are closing Lot W over the summer, as well as blocking off some sidewalks on the mall.
Junior geographic information science major Joey Celtnieks said he was disappointed the mall was fenced off last fall, but the work to replace the pipes and reduce flooding is more important than a temporary aesthetic disturbance.
"Even just today, when it was raining so much, there was a waterfall coming down the stairs [on the mall] when I was walking to class, so I think that they have lots of work to do for fixing that problem," he said. "They should definitely take the time out and make the campus less pretty if it means it'll be safer for students."
The construction will start May 22, the day after commencement — and is scheduled to last until early August, Olen said.
"It's all part of our continuing effort to improve the facilities and the infrastructure on the campus," Baker noted. "There is a whole world underground that supplies all kinds of services to our buildings, and those are our responsibilities to upgrade as well. Although it's disruptive … we have old infrastructure, and that's what we're trying to deal with."