New parking garage at SEMO nearly done

Friday, December 17, 2004

When the spring semester starts Jan. 18, Southeast Missouri State University will have 390 added parking spaces on a campus where students complain there is never enough parking.

As students finished fall semester final exams this week, construction workers were putting the finishing touches on the first part of a major parking structure on the north end of campus that school officials hope will encourage students to park their cars and ride campus shuttle buses to their classes.

"The whole point of the shuttle service was to keep parking out of the middle of campus," said Diane Sides, university relations director. That makes the campus look better and improves safety for pedestrians, she said.

But school officials said some students will continue to park on city streets rather than pay permit fees to park in campus lots.

"That is unfortunately one of the byproducts of having the university right smack in the middle of the city," she said.

The two-deck, concrete parking garage north of New Madrid Street and west of the Student Recreation Center is the first section of a multiphase project to build a stair-stepped parking structure.

The project is expected to cost about $17.5 million and provide a total of 1,809 parking spaces spread over three different levels. That would provide more than 1,100 additional parking spaces than are currently available on the gravel parking lot that currently covers much of the site, school officials said.

The project also will include a turn-around for the campus shuttle vans and possibly a new building to house the university's public safety department. But school officials said no decision has been made regarding the public safety building.

The project is being done as funding is available. Tom Hadler, design project manager for Southeast, said he hopes the entire project can be finished by 2008.

Eighty percent of the project is being funded with federal grant money distributed by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The university is paying the other 20 percent with revenue from campus parking fees.

The nearly completed section cost about $2.5 million, which was $300,000 more than the base bid, said Keith Kimmel, construction project manager for Southeast. "We had a lot of rock excavation," Kimmel said.

Construction on this phase began in May.

This part of the project is actually the second phase but the first involving the actual parking area, he said. The first phase involved construction of an access road northward from New Madrid Street.

The new parking area includes 311 spaces in the parking structure and 86 spaces in a gravel lot just north of the parking structure. School officials said that new lot was built on the fill dirt that was removed in excavating the site for the parking structure.

Hadler said the recent construction took place largely on an undeveloped hillside, the terrain hiding the project from the view of passing motorists and students on New Madrid Street.

The construction will result in 397 new spaces, 390 of which amount to additional parking in the parking area that students call "Pig Lot." The area used to be part of the university farm.

Today, the site is a graveled parking lot that can hold 692 vehicles. The new stair-stepped parking structure will replace the 692 parking spaces with 1,809 spaces, school officials said.

The next phase of the parking project should get underway in 2005, Hadler said. That could involve construction of the next phase of the parking structure or expansion of the access road to serve the recreational fields farther north, he said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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