LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - As McNeese welcomes back 9,000 students Wednesday, they hope crossing Ryan Street near McDonald's will be easier.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development installed a new traffic light and signalized crosswalk in the 4200 block of Ryan Street.
According to DOTD, the new signal crosswalk is tied into the light system and will be safer for pedestrians and drivers.
The new crosswalk replaces the old one which was a series of blinking lights on the roadway that students said was confusing.
"I think it's going to get rid of the ambiguity of those lights in the street. Street lights are a lot easier to see than those lights on the road," said Irrik Godsey, MSU Freshman.
MSU Spokesperson Candace Townsend said the university believes the improvements will be safer for students.
"The students hit a button to cross street and that activates stop light. The new signs on both sides also count down how long pedestrians have to cross," Townsend said. "The new light and crosswalk is also in preparation for traffic that will be coming to and from the SEED (Southwest Louisiana Entrepreneurial and Economic Development) Center.
Meanwhile across campus construction is underway on a $12,500,000 parking garage off Common Street. It's funded entirely by students and a direct result of the death of 19-year-old freshman Ashlea Richard who was killed nearly two years ago while crossing McNeese Street.
"That really hit our students very hard. I think it really showed them our parking situation and how dangerous it is for students to be crossing the streets at unprotected crosswalks," said Townsend.
Another issue students will have to contend with upon their return is less parking as construction of the garage continues.
"To be able to build the garage, we also had to give up more than a hundred parking spots. This, in addition to the spots we had to give up because of the demolition at old Burton residence hall. But when it's all done we will have a lot more parking," Townsend said.
Townsend said from here on out, the campus will be open parking for all students.
"We will still have designated spots for faculty and residence halls. However, because all students are paying a fee for the parking garage we will no longer have designated parking for Seniors and Juniors - it's now first come, first serve," explained Townsend.
Townsend said there is additional parking at old Charles Cinema (300 spots) and Stadium (more than 3,000 spots).
We will break down all of the changes and have reaction from students tonight at 10.