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Trustee Committee OKs Plans for West Campus Parking Garage

by on November 14, 2019 11:05 AM

Update (Nov. 15, 2019): The Penn State Board of Trustees unanimously approved, without questions or comments, plans for the west campus parking garage. 

Original story:

Plans for a new parking garage on Penn State's west campus took another step forward on Thursday.

The university's Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning recommended approval of final plans for the $60.57 million structure, which will consolidate existing surface lots on the west side of Atherton Street and provide 1,653 parking spaces. The six-level garage will be located on the current site of Red Lot A adjacent to the Earth and Engineering Science Building and is a first step in plans for updating and expanding College of Engineering facilities.

The full board will vote on the plans at its meeting on Friday.

Consolidating the surface lots then allows Penn State to develop the area for new College of Engineering buildings, with plans to construct three new facilities. The college's master plan calls for relocating much of its activities to new buildings on west campus and demolishing old, outdated facilities, including Hammond Building and the Engineering Units, over the next decade.

The garage will result in a net of about 400 new parking spaces and will be the largest parking structure in Centre County. Since the project was brought forward in 2018, the potential traffic impacts have drawn concerns from residents of two State College neighborhoods.

Initial plans sought to maintain access to the area via White Course Drive off of North Atherton Street and add another connecting road extending South Buckhout Street off of West College Avenue to the new garage. While the roads wouldn't have directly connected West College and North Atherton, the proposal sparked worries among borough council members and Holmes-Foster residents who were concerned inbound and outbound traffic would use neighborhood streets to avoid the South Atherton Street intersections with College Avenue and Beaver Avenue.

Penn State subsequently revised the plans to have a single access via North Atherton Street and an extended White Course Drive, a plan that received conditional approval from the borough earlier this fall. Borough planning director Ed LeClear said this week that the major outstanding condition is approval of a traffic impact study. The borough's transportation engineer and PennDOT staff are reviewing a revised study recently submitted by Penn State, but LeClear said he did not have a timeframe for when the review would be complete. 

The single access point has led to concerns from College Heights residents, who already have spent several years dealing with ongoing road work on North Atherton Street.

In a letter to PennDOT representatives, the College Heights Association said that while Atherton is a state road, it is also a neighborhood road.

"It is already difficult for [residents] to gain access to Atherton from their homes and additional traffic caused by a single access point to the garage will only worsen this situation," the letter said 

The letter questioned if additional access points would be needed with future expansion anyway, and raised concerns about an increase in pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues.

"Frankly, a single access point to the garage has an adverse impact on all constituencies (neighboring residents, users of the parking garage, students and other pedestrians accessing the west campus area, etc.) except for the PSU planners who will be largely unaffected by a refusal to consider a second point of access that makes sense for those affected by their planning," the letter said.

CHA president Steve Mower wrote in an email that the association is not advocating for a connection that would go through Holmes-Foster, but that the letter was sent to provide context for why CHA "is deeply concerned about any solution that considers only one entrance/exit to the proposed garage."

Borough council members last year suggested using Penn State property to create a second connection to Blue Course Drive, but campus planning staff said an existing dry well beneath the route presented feasibility issues.

Plans for the parking garage also call for two CATA bus stops and an expanded stormwater basin that will have capacity for future west campus buildings. The ground floor will have a bicycle workshop and storage and the roof will be designed to accommodate future installation of solar panels. 

A west campus parking garage has been in the university's plans for about 20 years.

An artist's rendering of the proposed West Campus Parking Garage, which will be constructed on the existing Red A parking lot and will provide 1,653 parking spaces. Image by Penn State

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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