A view of the new campus quad as seen from the new entrance to Brooks Gym. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)
It was certainly close.
Hundreds of parking spaces that are now available for students to use, a main entrance to campus and a major pedestrian path through campus are all now ready for students who will show up tomorrow at East Tennessee State University for the start of the 2013 semester, according to university administrators.
But just a couple weeks ago, that was not the case. Construction on a new parking lot — Lot 21, the new Jack Vest Drive that connects to State of Franklin Road and the campus quad were in danger of not being finished in time for class to start Monday morning.
ETSU President Brian Noland referred to the successful completion of the parking lot and the road as a “miracle on State of Franklin.”
“And I’m not saying that tongue-in-cheek; I’m sincere,” he said. “If you were to be on this campus two weeks ago, you would have said there’s no way in the world that they’re going to finish the construction projects that are underway. But thanks to the work of Summers Taylor, Retenbach and other countless, countless contractors across the area, we’re ready.”
See a photo gallery of the construction at the end of this article.
Retenbach has been the main contractor on the construction of the parking lot and a nearby 1,200-space parking garage. Summers Taylor is the contractor doing most of the asphalt work.
Most of the delay was due to heavy and often rain storms all year long.
Had the contractors exercised the “rain” clause in the contracts local news reports would be about the “parking apocalypse” at ETSU on Monday, Noland said.
Besides the parking lot and campus roads surrounding the construction of the parking garage being completed and open, an expansion to the Center for Physical Activity is open and renovations to the Cave in the D.P. Culp University Center are complete.
David Collins, vice president of finance and administration, said the new Jack Vest Drive was opened Friday morning.
Most of the fencing at the quad area, which is located near the center of campus, has been taken down. Railings have been installed on the new entrance to Brooks Gym, which is near the quad.
The quad is intended to be a green space and gathering spot for students. Most college campuses have such a place, but ETSU lacked one.
“As of Monday, all that will be open also,” Collins said. “There will be some minor work going on in there with the landscaping next week. But it will be open for the pedestrian students to walk through. So it’s all coming together and we’re feeling much better than we did a week ago at this point.”
The only real project unfinished now is the parking garage itself, which should be open by the middle of October.
ETSU faced a similar parking/road situation at the start of the 2012 school year. All these projects were just getting underway at the time. So students, staff and faculty should be ready for more of the same this fall.
“It’s pretty much the same. We do have more spaces in Lot 21 because that is where the tennis courts were before.”
The redoing of some campus roads means the parking situation is similar to what it was in fall 2012. Collins said the new road system should make traversing intersections safer for students.
“Students are no longer trying to cross what was a busy semi-roadway, so it’s going to be much better from a student safety factor,” he said. “We are certainly no worse off than we were last fall. We would have loved to have the garage open. Unfortunately, the weather just hasn’t cooperated.”
Collins said students should come early and not spend a lot of time cruising for open spaces. It should also be noted that half of Lot 21 is reserved for faculty and staff. Collins advised students to use Lot 22 farther to the west of campus and utilize the BucShot shuttle service to get closer to their respective classes.
Information regarding parking and campus construction is available at http://www.etsu.edu/fa/fs/parking/detour/. A complete schedule for the BUCSHOT shuttle service can be viewed at http://www.johnsoncitytransit.org/servicearea_routemaps.htm.
More information can be found on the ETSU Detour page at http://www.etsu.edu/fa/fs/parking/detour/.