Chris Williamson found an old nemesis Thursday when he returned to the Hill for the fall semester.
No available parking spaces.
After circling campus, the Livermore junior stopped his car on the street, turned on his flashing lights and began moving his stuff into his room in Southwest Hall.
Williamson summarized his view of campus parking in one word: “nonexistent.”
As Western continues expansion through construction and renovation, parking continues to trouble students, faculty and staff returning to the Hill.
University officials, aware of the problem, are taking steps to ease the parking crunch. They warn any possible solutions might still cause inconveniences.
“Human nature is we all want to park by the door, and that’s just not possible,” said Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and Campus Services.
Contrary to popular perception, Tice said the number of parking spaces on campus has increased since last year, but most of the new spots aren’t in the most convenient locations.
Parking changes have forced at least one significant alteration in zoning. Diddle lot is now reserved for commuter students, while the parking structure is now zoned only for students with B permits.
The new plan will prevent students with B permits from having to move their vehicles prior to basketball and football games. Students with B and C permits could park in either the Diddle lot or the parking structure last year.
New gravel parking lots built between Kentucky Street, Adams Street and 14th Street are adding about 590 spaces at the top of the Hill, said Karl Laves, co-chairman of Western’s Parking and Transportation Committee.
Western is leasing that property for $12,130 a year from the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center organization and private property owners, he said.
The gravel lots will not be paved. They’ll remain until construction begins on the new performing arts center.
“It could be one year, two years or 20 years,” construction manager Ed West said.
Laves said about $50,000 was allocated by the committee for gravel, concrete bumpers, fencing and lights.
Tice said there will also be a pedestrian crosswalk, rumble bars and a flashing light installed near the Kentucky Museum.
Another 82 gravel lot spaces will be made available as the university continues its construction work there, he said.
The new gravel lots are reserved for students with Zone B and Zone C parking permits.
Tice said those new spaces offset losses from the Diddle lot, where construction has decreased spots.
About 320 spaces are gone between the arena and Smith Stadium. Only 60 will be returned when construction is over.
John Osborne, vice president of Campus Services and Facilities, said the addition of new spaces won’t stop just because the semester has begun.
“It’s not a case where we work as hard as we can and see how it goes for the semester,” he said. “It’s an evolving, ongoing process.”
West said parking will soon have a significant increase near Egypt lot, where about 320 new spaces are expected to be added this school year.
The expansion – which will extend parking spaces to the softball field – should give the lot about 727 parking spaces.
Laves said the Egypt lot expansion is part of $2.3 million from the Diddle Arena renovation project set aside for parking improvements.
West said the lot work should cost less than $2 million and bidding for the construction should begin the first week of September.
The new spaces will be usable once the first surface is laid – next semester – but additional work will still be needed.
Bowling Green junior Dianne Conlee said she’s a fair-weather fan of Egypt lot.
“When it rains, I won’t park in Egypt,” she said. “Most people are that way because they like their cars.”
But West said a new drainage system at the lot will ease flooding fears.
He said filters will be used to cleanse storm water as it drains into newly-drilled shafts flowing into the Lost River Cave beneath the lot.
Tice said the parking spaces at the south end of the Hill will help offset the temporary loss of 30 spots due to the Bemis Lawrence Hall renovation.
He said the university will continue adding parking around the campus’ perimeter, but will avoid building lots in the university’s center.
“We’re trying to make this campus more pedestrian friendly,” he said.
BEGINITAL Herald reporter Joseph Lord can be reached at [email protected] ENDITAL