NU marks the parking spot: Officials make way for more student spaces

Elizabeth Campbell

University officials proposed plans Monday to relieve traffic congestion in the center of campus by drawing drivers to other lots.

Parking is becoming increasingly limited as construction projects reduce the number of available spaces.

“We’ve been whittling away at the number of total parking spaces on the campus over the last seven or eight years with construction,” said Ron Nayler, associate vice president for facilities management.

Centrally located parking lots, such as lots near the Allen Center and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, are generally filled to capacity, Nayler said.

NU still has more spots than the Evanston’s zoning laws require, but parking has become tighter in recent years.

“Because we’ve taken parking out, there’s been a crunch,” Nayler said.

The main campus has more than 3,300 parking spaces. Additionally, there are 330 spaces at Engelhart Hall at Foster Street and Maple Avenue. Ryan Field lots also have 720 available spaces.

For the past year, the parking planning advisory committee of faculty, staff, undergraduates and graduate students has been reviewing options to create more campus parking. The committee’s findings were presented Monday at a public meeting at Norris University Center.

One priority is replacing some of the parking that will be lost with the building of the Proteomics and Nanobiotechnology Building.

The construction will eliminate about 70 parking spots, said Eugene Sunshine, NU senior vice president for business and finance and chairman of the parking advisory committee.

To compensate for the loss, the university began construction in the fall of a parking lot behind the Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center. Originally scheduled to be completed by Jan. 1, the project is awaiting permits and should be completed this spring, Nayler said. The lot will have a total of 261 spaces open to students, faculty and staff.

The committee also highlighted two other options for expanding campus parking.

One proposal would create an underground garage between the Allen Center and the Pancoe Life Sciences Pavilion with about 400 spaces. This lot would be a “destination lot,” meaning that general campus traffic would not circulate through it. Parking in the lot would require special permits and likely would be more expensive, Sunshine said.

“There will be much fewer cars coming in from Sheridan Road from the Garrett entrance,” he said.

A separate proposal called for constructing a 400-space underground garage at SPAC that could eventually be enlarged to include 1,400 above-ground spaces.

The committee considered increasing the number of spaces at Ryan Field that are available to the NU community, altering arrangements under which parts of the lot are leased to Evanston Hospital and the City of Evanston. But that would require the university to expand its shuttle system, which would cost as much as building an above-ground garage on campus.

The construction of new lots could affect the cost of parking permits, Sunshine said. Pricing will be addressed once the exact locations of the lots are determined.

NU also is investigating whether to request a traffic signal on Sheridan Road at the Garrett entrance to ease pedestrian and vehicular conflicts, Nayler said.

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