Parking structure may be expanded

Jessica Sasseen

Double the parking, double the parking structure.

It’s just an idea Western officials are bouncing around.

Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and Campus Services, presented a possible plan at Tuesday night’s Student Government Association meeting. He was looking for feedback on a plan outlining an expansion of the parking structure that would add 600 to 1,000 spaces.

The plan is in the early stages and has not been sent to any committees, nor has any money been allotted to this project, Construction Manager Ed West said.

The plan is being looked at by the facilities management staff. It proposes extending the parking structure horizontally across Dogwood Lane.

If this extension passed, Dogwood Lane would be closed or rerouted between the heating plant and Gilbert Hall.

West said another possibility includes moving Facilities Management and Environmental Health and Safety out of the bottom of the parking structure. This would open up the bottom level to parking.

Facilities would then relocate. One consideration is the property Western owns across the railroad tracks.

Tice said the possibility of making Big Red Way a two-way road again also exists.

The idea to extend the structure must pass through the Parking and Transportation Committee and then the Campus Master Plan Committee.

West said parking structures cost about $10,000 per space to build. He said the bulk of the cost is found in building the on and off ramps. By extending Western’s structure across Dogwood Lane and using the existing ramps, the project will cost less.

“I can’t do anymore work until we get more feedback,” West said. “It’s just whether we want to spend $5 million or $10 million on the project.”

Students could be asked to pick up the tab for a possible parking structure addition. Tice discussed this option at the SGA meeting.

“We’re looking at a cost of $30 to $35 that every student would have to pay in order to make this a reality,” Tice said.

He said this was the most heavily debated portion of his presentation to SGA and a lot of members were concerned about who would have to pay the proposed fee. Some members proposed adding the fee to the parking tag fee, he said.

Brandon Copeland, SGA’s vice president of administration, said everyone at the meeting was receptive to discussing the ideas.

“The main concern is for the people who paid for those spots being able to use them,” Copeland said.

The increased enrollment will add more demands on parking, Tice said, which is why making more parking available is important.

“We’ve got to come up with another plan to provide additional spaces. We don’t want to pave all the green space,” Tice said. “But we’re going to have to take it one step at a time, and we’ve got a lot to do before we get to that point.”

Copeland was concerned with the possible closing of Dogwood Lane.

“I think it would present some problems with travel around campus. You would have to consider Dogwood,” he said. “That’s how many people get to campus and onto Big Red Way.”

“If they could find a way to make up for the use of Dogwood, then I think it’s a good idea on the table.”

Tice was pleased with the results of the meeting.

“My goal was to get some feedback,” Tice said. “Now we’ll go back and explore some of those options.”

West said he would love to see the addition started this fall, but he feels that may be too ambitious.

“I could see construction next summer, if we act soon,” West said. “It would obviously not be something that would be built overnight. It would probably be next spring before we could feel effects of a structure addition.”

Design could begin on the project as early as this summer and it would take six to nine months for completion of design, West said.

Reach Jessica Sasseen at [email protected]