By Harold Gwin
YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State University’s Lincoln Avenue parking deck could be coming down in early 2010.
The university’s board of trustees has approved funding the demolition of the 1,278-space garage, known as M-2, and its replacement with a 375-space surface parking lot as part of the $47 million the board is borrowing to finance various campus improvement projects.
The tentative timetable for the demolition shows April 2010 as the target date to begin the parking lot project, although that could change.
The total price tag is estimated at $4.1 million.
The parking deck is structurally sound, said Danny O’Connell, YSU’s director of support services.
But it is old, built in 1972, with a limited lifespan, and the university has reached the point where it must decide to invest substantial money in renovating it, replacing it or tearing it down and going with surface parking, O’Connell said.
Replacement is cost prohibitive, John Hyden, executive director of facilities, recently told the trustees. That would cost an estimated $24 million, he said. Likewise, a suggestion to build parking underground at the site would be too costly, he said.
O’Connell said even a renovation would cost as much as $7 million and only give the deck another 10 to 15 years of useful life.
The plan to replace it with a surface lot would result in the loss of some 800 parking spaces, which the university is working to address before the deck is gone. No final decisions have been made, but perhaps a surface lot could be developed next to the Beeghly College of Education or property on the west side of Fifth Avenue or south of Lincoln Avenue could be used, O’Connell said.
The existing student parking lot on the north side of the Madison Avenue Expressway for those living in campus housing could also cover some of the Lincoln Avenue shortage, he said.
Only about 1,300 of the university’s 13,000 students live on campus. The rest are commuters.
There are slightly more than 6,100 parking spaces on campus now, but rarely are most of them more than about 90 percent occupied, except for the Lincoln Avenue deck which is generally full or nearly so from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. weekdays, according to a fall 2008 parking space count.
The university has set up a special committee to look at alternative methods of transportation for students, faculty and staff.
Paul Kobulnicky, executive director of YSU’s Maag Library, is the committee chairman. He said the group is examining issues and options of campus parking, pointing out that the Lincoln Avenue deck “is just one issue that is driving us.” There have been some discussions with the Western Reserve Transit Authority looking for ways to boost ridership by those coming to the university, Kobulnicky said.
Those range from giving regular bus service and bus stops better visibility on campus to adding a direct bus route through campus and even setting up “park and ride” central points, perhaps in Poland, Canfield and/or Boardman where faculty, staff and students could leave their vehicles and ride a bus to campus, he said.
There’s also been some discussion around creating a “ride share” program, sort of an automated car pool system that would allow people coming to campus to link up and ride with others, he said.
There was a sudden upsurge in the number of bicycles and motorcycles being ridden to campus when gasoline reached $4 a gallon, demonstrating a clear need for more facilities for those modes of transportation, Kobulnicky said.
Although student enrollment is growing, the university would like to see fewer cars, Hyden said.
There are a lot of people coming to campus alone in their cars, said YSU spokesman Ron Cole, adding that sharing rides and making use of public transportation would help the campus effort to be “greener.”