Students stealing new Speedway bricks cause construction problems

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After hearing that the majority of the bricks for the Speedway Mall project would be replaced, students hoping for a quirky souvenir resorted to pulling them up from the ground, taking newly laid bricks in the process.

Four chunks of bricks are currently missing from Speedway Mall, including one section that was not intended to be replaced, said Laurie Lentz, communications manager for Financial and Administrative Services. Lentz said officials noticed Thursday morning that 175 new, properly stress-tested bricks had been stolen from Speedway. 

“The spot found (Thursday) morning was where replacement pavers had been put in,” Lentz said. “That means rework, so … it’s unfortunate.”

Although almost all of the bricks on the Speedway Mall project will be ripped up and repaved because of cracking, the bricks currently installed north of 24th Street have been proven to comply with UT’s strength standards and do not need be replaced.

With 175 bricks missing from the newly laid area however, construction crews will have to revisit the location and fill it in again.  

The repair will not require the University to purchase more bricks, but the University’s stockpile of extra bricks will now be smaller. Lentz said the crew will have less additional resources to draw from in the event of further damages. Additionally, the way in which the bricks were removed illegally has disturbed the base underneath the Mall, creating additional obstacles to repairing the damaged spots. 

“The base had already been treated and repaired, and now it has got to be dealt with again,” Lentz said. “It’s more time-consuming … it’s time and materials.”

Even stealing the old, cracking bricks south of 24th Street could create problems, Lentz said. Pulling out chunks of bricks creates a hazard for cyclists and could cause pedestrians to trip or fall. It could also make the area less accessible. 

“It interferes with safe movement for individuals who have disabilities such as visual impairment, or who must use a wheelchair, for example,” Lentz said in an email.

As of Thursday afternoon, the police had not arrested or issued tickets to any students for stealing bricks, said Jules Chan, UT public safety communications coordinator. Chan said as of now, there have been no changes made to police action in the area, but since the problem is growing, that may change. 

Earlier this week, news of students stealing the bricks circulated on UT Facebook groups and on Twitter, sparking an influx of discussions and memes. Radio-television-film senior Trung Tran said at first it seemed like people were just doing it to be funny.

“Obviously, whenever it first started off, it was a little bit harmless,” Tran said. “But the more people do it, the more there are chunks of it missing … they’re just doing it to be stupid. It’s not like they’re trying to harm people.”

Public health freshman Ana Sofia Santiago said if students stealing the bricks could mess with the construction, they should stop doing it so that the replacement process can completed as soon as possible.  

“Although it might be funny, those bricks are necessary,” Santiago said. “People should keep that in mind.”