Main Lot parking construction continues to make progress



Sean Doherty

Ever since the closure of Pike Lot on Feb. 16, students, faculty, and staff alike have struggled to find on campus parking. The closure came at a time when midterms were in full swing and tensions were already elevated. Parking lot closures are essential to the construction efforts currently under way on Lancaster Avenue. Unfortunately these efforts have come at a cost, with many members of the community finding themselves either stuck at the light on Lancaster and Ithan, or ceaselessly looking for an open spot in Main Lot.

“It’s been tough trying to park in Main Lot because it has increased by commute time by a lot,” Michael McDonald said, a senior economics major. “I’ve been parking in other places around campus risking getting a ticket but worth the time not spent trying to find a spot in a full lot or waiting at the light that gets backed up.”

In an effort to advise frustrated members of the community, Dennis E. Gallagher, Director of Parking, said “leave early and be patient,” evoking a message similar to what the British government told its citizens in 1939 with the iconic words, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

“Right now is the tightest time,” Gallagher said. “Our toughest time has been Tuesdays and Thursday between 11a.m. to 2 p.m.” As the University undergoes major construction, some concessions have to be made to allow for this improvement to occur.

Predicting the demand for certain parking on campus is not an exact science. While the construction of SAC Garage is complete, it is not at capacity yet. There are approximately 70 spots going unfilled right now, but Gallagher expects that these spots will be filled in the coming months from a cycle of waiting lists.

Gallagher also explained the system of determining parking needs, which includes a member of his staff driving down each row and reporting back how many spaces are open. He closes Main Lot when it reaches capacity, and once a spot opens up, they open the lot back up. He also encourages the community to utilize South Campus parking when Main Lot fills up, because there are running shuttles to bring people where they need to be. There has also been a pause on the issuance of new parking passes with only extreme exception, until more parking has been made available.

In regards to the timeline of the parking project, it is currently in Phase II of III. Phase I was the construction and completion of The SAC Parking Garage, which saw the addition of 200 news spots (500 total) for faculty and staff. Phase I saw its completion come three weeks early. Phase II started when Pike Lot closed and construction of the new parking garage began. Phase II will conclude when Pike Garage is finished in early 2017 and will house of approximately 1,300 spaces. Phase II will also see the widening of Lancaster Ave. and Ithan Ave, and the construction of the pedestrian bridge across Lancaster. Phase III will commence when Phase II is complete. Senior Project Manager, Marilou Smith, oversees all of these phases.

A main concern is Commencement this May, but there already are plans to deal with the increased traffic on campus in the most efficient manner. “Last year, one of the bright spots was we used Radnor Financial Center and shuttled them using three vans,” Gallagher said. “As people came down the Blue Route they were able to see where to go on the State Message Boards.”

 The use of message boards and shuttles will reappear this year, but the number of vans will increase and parking in the Financial Center will absorb the loss of the Pike Lot spaces.

In May 2016, a major boost to on-campus parking will be the opening of the surface lots that are currently under construction across and to the right of the Church. Those lots are expected to add 300 spots. The University has also been working with a parking consultant, and the school is expected to rename its parking lots in a more methodical manner. For example Main Lot may transform to M1 or West Campus parking to W2.

Lancaster Avenue improvements are focused on lessening the amount of traffic that has to go through Lancaster and Ithan. Vice President of Facilities Management, Robert H. Morro, explained that once construction is complete the bridge across Lancaster Ave. will alleviate most pedestrian traffic, from students coming from South campus, the new dorms, and people parked in the new surface lots. Since Lancaster Ave. is a state highway, “we are working closely with PENN DOT… and we need Radnor approval to do Ithan Ave… to make turn lanes on both of those roads,” Morro said.

The Lancaster turn lanes will grant access to the surface lots before Church Bridge, as well as access to a road behind the dorms, which will lead to an entrance to the new Pike Garage. The Ithan expansion will feature a left turn lane and a right turn lane. “Our main concern is safety,” Morro said, detailing how much planning and work went into ensuring that Radnor Township and Police were satisfied with the safety of pedestrians.

In terms of the construction of Pike Garage, it will be built in similar fashion to The SAC Garage. It will be built with precast concrete, and brought in piece by piece on flatbed trucks escorted by Radnor Police. The Pike garage itself will have one floor underground, three floors above ground and be in compliance with Radnor height restrictions of 68 feet. The top floor will use dark skylight to reduce light pollution, and the garage will feature an elevator plus EV charging stations. It will also feature brick paneling to improve the appearance, but it should be noted that once all construction is complete, the new Performing Arts Center will relatively mask it.

Image courtesy of Villanova University