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UMass readies for return of 20,000-plus students

Dorms in the Southwest residential are of the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst.

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Dorms in the Southwest residential are of the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

AMHERST — Beginning Friday and continuing throughout Labor Day weekend, a significant increase in traffic is expected in Amherst as the bulk of the 20,000-plus undergraduates at the University of Massachusetts arrive in town for the fall semester.

But UMass officials have taken steps to get students into their dormitories, on Friday for first-year students and Sunday for returning students, that are designed to reduce traffic congestion in town.

Once again, the residential life staff at UMass will use a boarding pass system that assigns specific times and places for families to arrive, said UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski.

“What we’ve tried to do is manage the flow,” he said.

Traffic will be rerouted on several roads and barriers and additional staff will be on-hand to manage the university parking lots.

University Drive will be closed between Massachusetts Avenue and Amity Street on Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and again Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. On those two dates, Sunset Avenue will be southbound only to prevent motorists from using that street to get to the Southwest residential area.

Because of the proximity of the residential towers at Southwest to neighborhoods, there is always concern about traffic affecting streets there. But Nancy Buffone, the executive director of the office of external relations and university events, said no vehicles will be diverted onto Fearing Street and Lincoln Avenue.

Another traffic change comes Sunday on Commonwealth Avenue near the Commonwealth Honors College. Traffic will be moved to the southbound lanes for two-way travel while the northbound lanes will be used as an unloading zone for students. On Labor Day, Massachusetts Avenue will be closed to accommodate the Welcome Back Barbecue from 4 to 7 p.m. at Haigis Mall, where dining services will be attempting to set a world record by concocting a 15,066-pound fruit salad.

Amherst Police Capt. Christopher Pronovost said two Amherst officers have been hired to work both Friday and Sunday on Amity Street at University Drive. He said there still will be heavy traffic, with those coming up Main Street and using Triangle Street to access the university, as well as Meadow Street in North Amherst. But Pronovost said it’s not the free for all of the past, when many would arrive on campus and some would have to wait for hours.

“It’s a lot more organized,” he said.

Staggered move-in

This will mark the third year freshmen arrive early for an extended New Student Orientation program and the second year all students living on campus will be part of the more organized process of move-in spearheaded by Eddie Hull, executive director of residential life.

Students received move-in reservation times and printed the boarding passes, along with their student IDs, in mid August.

Families of the 4,600 freshmen, and the 8,723 upper-class members living on campus, will arrive at their designated times at one of two parking lots, one near the football stadium off University Drive, the other near North Apartments off Eastman Lane.

The vehicles then will head to parking lots near dormitories to get in a queue, and when called, students and parents “stop and drop” at the dormitory and receive assistance from student volunteers known as the Minute Movers. The volunteers pledge to complete the move from vehicle to dorm room in 20 minutes.

Last year, the longest wait from check-in to having all belongings in a dorm room was about an hour, said Hull.

He said he expects the process to be even quicker this year, even with the 1,500 additional on-campus beds at the Commonwealth Honors College, and, for the 10th consecutive year, a larger enrollment: 20,640 undergraduates, up from 20,604 undergraduates last year.

The reason, he said, is that the university has hired a professional moving company — University and Student Services — specializing in campus move-ins to guide the process for the five residential towers in Southwest and the new Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community. University and Student Services has worked on 50 campuses, Hull said.

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