East Tennessee State University’s $26.1 million parking garage, which has at times driven both university officials and contractors to the point of exasperation, now seems to be coasting into the final stages of construction.
Workers putting the finishing touches on a new brick and stone sign at the West State of Franklin Road campus entrance said the job was the last of the masonry work for the project.
ETSU Vice President for Finance and Administration David Collins said the garage structure is “pretty much done” with security cameras installed and operating, furniture being moved into some of the attached offices and a temporary certificate of occupancy granted by the Johnson City fire marshal.
But it could be another couple of weeks until students are allowed to park in the 1,200-space structure while finishing touches continue on the garage and the pedestrian mall between the new garage and the minidome.
“The problem is getting the students around the construction area,” Collins said. “We talked to the students, and they would prefer to have it ready instead of having to walk around that construction site.”
Collins said ETSU President Brian Noland took the issue up with the Student Government Association, which helped decide that it would be easier for students to wait.
He also said the offices on either side of the garage were mostly completed, but the public safety office likely wouldn’t move until after classes end in May to reduce the risk of having emergency communications interrupted while students are present on campus.
Over the past month, temperatures have swung wildly to both sides of normal ranges, but Collins said workers were finally able to run the needed camera system’s fiberoptic cables, which can become brittle in freezing temperatures.
The Subway restaurant, on the garage’s east side, is still under construction, but it’s not vital to the parking functions of the structure, he said.
The multilevel garage has faced delays since construction began in August 2012, first from unsuitable soil at the build site, then from an unusually wet building season.
After that, materials shortages and what general contractor Rentenbach said were design issues related to the drawings’ complexity slowed the project.
Since the first of the year, the projected completion date has been delayed several times by below-freezing temperatures.
Now six months after the originally expected finish, Collins said the contractor faces contractual penalties for the missed deadline, but the state will likely reach a settlement with the company.
To pay the $26.1 million cost of construction, the university doubled student parking fees in 2011. Although the price tag increased from the expected $23 million, Collins said the fee should still cover the costs.