Around lunchtime Monday, a group of Florida International University students waited at the intersection of Southwest Fourth Street and 109th Avenue for a shuttle to take them to class.
They were anxious and pacing, as the shuttle was more than 30 minutes late.
“I had to walk all the way over here just to wait for the shuttle,” said Amanda Radcliffe, a junior at FIU, already late for her seminar, Writing and Rhetoric 2. “And it’s still 15 minutes away, the rideshare app is telling us.”
Monday was the students’ first day back from spring break, and the first day of school after the FIU pedestrian bridge, under construction, collapsed onto traffic Thursday, killing six people, including an FIU student. To cope with road closures, the university encouraged students to take the shuttle service running between FIU and Sweetwater –– the city roughly 4,000 FIU students call home.
But on its first day of post-collapse service, the students said, the shuttle was causing as many problems as it solved.
The students’ frustration stemmed in part from their proximity –– the shuttle stop was only blocks away from campus. On a normal day, they would have walked.
But Southwest Eighth Street between 107th and 117th avenues has been closed since the bridge collapsed.
A crosswalk that usually took the students across a heavily traveled Eighth Street was closed Monday through the afternoon.
“There’s some wall up or something, a barrier,” Radcliffe said. “You can’t walk at the crosswalk.”
(State transportation officials reopened the crosswalk at Eighth Street and 109th Avenue Monday evening.)
With the intersection closed earlier in the day, the students had to walk around the blocked-off area.
“Without the crosswalk, it would take an hour to walk,” said another junior, Amanda Perez.
Barred from crossing the street, the students could either take the shuttle or drive.
Like Radcliffe, Perez had been waiting at the stop for nearly 30 minutes. But she had been trying to get to campus since 10 a.m.
Even though her class didn’t start until 1 p.m., Perez and a friend had tried to make it to campus early Monday by car.
“There was absolutely no parking,” Perez said. “We looked for parking for an hour, in three different parking garages. So, we drove back and came here.”
As it approached 12:30 p.m., Perez worried she would be late.
“We thought three hours would be enough time to get there,” she said. “But I guess it wasn’t.”
At around 12:40 p.m., a shuttle pulled up, and the students hopped on board. The previous bus had skipped their stop, the driver said.
After a few blocks, one student who had been waiting the longest (35 minutes), scooted up to the front of the shuttle, and asked if the driver could stop at the engineering school.
“That’s a different shuttle,” the driver said. “You’ll have to get off at main campus and take another bus back.”
He returned to his seat, grumbling.
“Look at all that traffic,” Radcliffe said, staring out the window. “I’m not looking forward to heading back home.”