Olsson Associates


Iowa State University project will make high-traffic area safer for students

Friday, April 20, 2018

Leah Bucco-White, Communications

Union Drive is a main entry point to Iowa State University located in Ames, Iowa, and home to the largest residence hall on campus. Friley Hall, which can house more than 1,200 students, is also considered one of the largest residence halls in the nation. Thousands of students cross Union Drive daily. The road is also a major bus route and corridor that connects to a bustling commercial district called Campustown.


A bus travels along Union Drive near Iowa State University.

 “There is a lot of activity on and around Union Drive. The number of students, bikes, buses, and vehicles sharing the roadway has increased significantly over the years,” said Jeremy Shepherd, team leader in Olsson’s Des Moines office. “Creating a safer space for pedestrians is the primary focus of the project. We’re also better defining the corridor to make it easier to navigate while maintaining the natural aesthetic found on campus.”    

Olsson’s Multimodal Transportation team conducted an analysis of Union Drive.

“The team looked at the existing conditions. We documented the movement of pedestrians, buses, bicycles, and other vehicles, and made recommendations to enhance safety,” said Team Leader Jeff McKerrow who is based in Kansas City.

The redesign of Union Drive focuses on slowing traffic and diverting traffic flow.

“The new alignment of Union Drive revises the T-intersection with Welch Road, creates a 3-way stop, and narrows the existing roadway, which will help slow down vehicles and add delay along the corridor,” said Jeremy.

Creating a safer space along Union Drive for students to congregate, and adding more space around bus stops, is also part of the project.


Students walk to a bus stop on Union Drive.

“This is a more of a traffic-driven project, but landscape architects played a critical role in the overall vision,” said Joe Stoberl, Olsson senior landscape architect and project manager. “The energy of Olsson’s design studio—Ochsner Hare & Hare—and our charrette process were some of the reasons Olsson was selected for the project.”   

The charrette process is an effective and efficient way to gather a large amount of information from a wide audience.

Over a two-day period, the design team met with user groups from the university and the city. The groups shared their ideas and provided input specific to what they felt was critical to the design.

“The main goal is to listen to everyone’s priorities and funnel that information into concepts. It’s an opportunity for people to be a part of the process,” said Joe. 

The design team helped identify common themes and ideas. The team took that information and created drawings. The result was five final design concepts that were ultimately narrowed to two. Then the design team hosted an open house for people to view concepts and provide input. After thoughtful consideration, the university selected a final concept.

Union Drive Drawing/Concept 1

“We’re using our resources here in Iowa as well as drawing on the expertise of our firm and region. Through our combined efforts, we’re able to provide a comprehensive solution for a unique project, all in house, “said Jeremy.

Construction on Union Drive started in March 2018. The project will be completed in 2019.





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