SEMO looks to build parking garages

Monday, December 10, 2001

Faced with a campus crowded by cars with too few parking spaces, Southeast Missouri State University wants to build two, two-story parking garages at opposite ends of campus and hike parking permit fees to pay for it.

The Board of Regents will consider the $6.5 million project when it meets on Friday.

Southeast proposes building a 360-space parking garage on the Henderson Avenue parking lot across from the new residence hall that is under construction. The second structure would be built on the Sprigg Street parking lot at the Towers residence halls complex. It would have space for 340 vehicles.

School officials said the Henderson Avenue garage is crucial and needs to be built by next fall, when the new 300-bed residence hall across the street is scheduled to open.

"Parking is going to be at a premium on the south end of campus without it because of the new residence hall," said Dr. Pauline Fox, vice president of administration and enrollment management.

The Henderson Avenue parking garage would be the first such structure in the history of the Southeast campus.

The Towers parking garage wouldn't be built until 2003.

The garages would have parking for students, staff and visitors.

Southeast also has plans to build a $12 million park-and-ride structure on New Madrid Street west of the Student Recreation Center. That project would allow students, faculty and staff to park their cars and take university shuttle buses to wherever they want to go on campus.

But that project depends on federal funding. Southeast has obtained planning money, but has yet to receive any construction dollars from the federal government.

The park-and-ride structure would be done in phases, but ultimately would have about 1,800 parking spaces compared to the 700 spaces on the current New Madrid Street parking lot known as the "Pig Lot." The site was once part of the university's farm.

Twice the spaces

For now, Southeast is focused on building the Henderson and Towers parking garages.

Fox said the Henderson garage would have twice the number of spaces that are currently available on the surface lot where it would be built.

The Towers garage would be tucked into the southeast corner of the Sprigg Street lot, an area that now has 170 parking spaces. Building the garage would double the number of parking spaces in that section of the parking lot.

The entire parking lot currently has 299 parking spaces.

With no state or federal money available for standard parking garages, Southeast proposes to sell bonds and retire them over 30 years. Fox said low interest rates make it an affordable project.

Southeast administrators plan to nearly double parking permit fees to retire the bonds. Students would pay the higher fees starting next fall.

Preferred parking permits would increase $50 or $60, from $80 to $130 a year, Fox said. Preferred parking would include the parking garages, she said.

Perimeter permits would cost $80 to $85 compared to the current $45 a year.

Permits for evening parking would jump from $25 a year to $40 or $45.

The fee hikes would generate an added $430,000 a year, money that would be used to retire the bonds, Fox said.

Complained for years

Students are divided over the proposal.

Student Government supports the project. Travis Partney, who heads up the student issues committee of Student Government, said students have complained about the lack of parking for years.

Partney favors the project, arguing it's the best way to provide added parking. "I think definitely you would see a marked improvement as far as parking space," he said.

Maeve Roach, a junior from St. Peters, Mo., has lived in the Towers complex since her freshman year.

Roach said freshmen who live at Towers have to park in the "Pig Lot" west of the Student Recreation Center.

"That is very far away for people to park who live in Towers," she said. "I hardly ever used my car as a freshman because I had to walk so far to get to it."

Roach plans to move off campus for her senior year. But she said she supports the building project because it will free up more Towers parking for students as well as free up space in the Pig Lot for commuters.

Most students are willing to pay for parking improvements, she said.

But Scott Hayles, a sophomore from Kansas City who lives in Towers, doesn't want to pay higher parking fees.

Hayles said he is paying his own way through school. "I have to watch the financial situation," said Hayles, who has a $45 perimeter permit and doesn't want to see it double.

Hayles parks his car on Normal Avenue by the Grauel Building, which, he said, is still closer to his dorm than the New Madrid Street lot.

He said he can't afford the parking garage spaces. "Cost is more important than convenience," said Hayles.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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