Construction on East Tennessee State University’s multimillion dollar parking garage project to allow more parking closer to campus began Tuesday.
The 1,200-space parking garage will be located on the west end of campus at the corner of John Robert Bell Drive and West State of Franklin Road.
A 200-space parking lot is now located where the parking garage will go. Part of the project will involve relocating the school’s tennis court from near Warf-Pickel Hall to out near Summers-Taylor Stadium, the school’s soccer field. The total cost of both projects is $26 million.
The construction fence encompassing the site and blocking access to the roughly 200 parking spaces where the garage will go was erected Tuesday morning. The tennis courts will be used as a lay-down yard for building materials.
Crews began removing the grove of trees between the parking lot and Jack Vest Drive Tuesday morning. Excavation of the site will begin soon, but first some utility lines buried under the site must be rerouted, said David Collins, ETSU’s vice president of finance and administration.
“There’s a major communication duct that runs underneath the parking lot,” he said. “You don’t particularly want something you might have to get to running under a parking garage.”
Collins said one of the biggest concerns during construction will be pedestrian safety, as many parking spaces are still near the construction site and many students used the site to access other parts of campus.
So, to accommodate students who will park on the west end of campus and need to walk to the east end, a sidewalk will be built to route them around the construction area.
To allow for the loss of the parking spaces where the garage will be built, Collins said students will be allowed to park at Thomas Stadium, the new baseball field located near University Edge Apartments just off University Parkway. The lot for the stadium is not yet finished but should be in time for the fall semester. A shuttle will operate between that lot and campus, Collins said.
Additional overflow parking also will be available near the school’s recently renovated married student housing area near the south of campus.
“We feel that between all that, while things will be tight and certainly at a distance, that should take care of our parking if people will just use it,” Collins said.
The garage will be paid for using a student-imposed parking fee increase from $25 per semester to $50 per semester. Freshmen and sophomores paid the increased parking fees this past school year. Juniors will pay the fees beginning this coming school year. Seniors and graduate students will pay the increased fees the year after that.
Collins said besides students desiring a parking garage that allows them to be closer to classes, the garage allows for future growth of the campus. Some buildings at ETSU in the future may have to be built on existing lots.
“We’re just so landlocked we don’t have a whole lot of room to go except up for parking to create additional room we may need for the future,” Collins said.
The garage is expected to be finished in time for the fall 2013 semester.