Classes began without any real parking problems at East Tennessee State University Monday, despite a major construction project that has eliminated around 400 prime parking spots and the closure of a portion of campus to vehicles.
“At this point things seem to be going pretty smoothly,” said ETSU Vice President of Finance and Administration David Collins. “I just went over on the west side (of campus) and a lot of people are filling up (lot) 22A but it’s only about half full as of 9 o’clock.”
Lot 22A is the farthest lot on the west end of campus.
Collins said the busiest time of the day would be around mid-morning Monday until around noon. No major traffic problems were reported, though, by day’s end.
Problems with traffic flow and parking were anticipated by university administrators due to the closing of the center of the campus earlier this summer to vehicle traffic to create a campus green space and the elimination of close to 400 parking spaces on the school’s west end while a 1,224-space parking garage is being built.
To preempt any trouble with traffic on the 15,500-plus student campus, administrators established a website that warns motorists of road closures and will provide updates to changes throughout the next year as the garage is erected. A news conference was called by university officials a few weeks ago to explain the changes in parking and traffic flow on campus and the school plans to provide informative text messages and emails to faculty, staff and students about the situation as merited.
Collins said anyone coming onto campus should check etsu.edu/detour for information about parking and traffic flow.
Monday may have been calm but more classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so more students will likely be on campus then.
“Tuesday is typically the worst day, Tuesday/Thursday, so, again, hopefully we’ll get all the information out.,” Collins said. “They need to look at the (website), avoid Sherrod Drive here with the circle so we don’t have that issue... .”
Jack Cotrel, ETSU public safety chief was out walking the campus Monday. He came upon the recently installed roundabout, or circle Collins referred to, and noticed some motorists were unaware of the closure of the center of campus to vehicles. The center was closed in early June, a few weeks after the end of the spring semester. The roundabout was installed at the intersection of Sherrod and Alexander Drive to direct traffic back out onto West State of Franklin Road. Sherrod Drive once provided access to the middle of campus by car.
Eventually a traditional campus green space will be created in the middle of campus.
“It’s one of the newer things we have on campus,” Cotrel said of the roundabout. “So we’ve got quite a few students who have not been exposed to this change. This time next week we will have reached the majority of them. I think it’s going to be fine.
“But it’s a typical first day of school, and we’re glad to see them back.”
The parking spaces on the east end of campus filled up quickly Monday morning. Most students who parked in the western lots used the safe walking path ETSU made a few weeks ago to take those who park there safely past the parking garage construction and away from traffic to academic buildings.
Shali Watkins, a sophomore studying exercise science, and Jerrica Gulley, a senior majoring in administration/marketing, were both glad to be back on campus Monday. Watkins pointed out that the parking may be hectic more so than usual on campus this year but the shuttle service known as the Buc Shot helps ferry people from the fringes of the campus to class.
Gulley said the parking situation should help in the long run.
“I mean it sucks, but a parking garage I guess will help in the future,” she said.