Parking Services seeks input on proposed structure

In March, MSU alumnus Norm Asbjornson pledged $50 million to the construction of a new College of Engineering building. The future complex is eponymously named the Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center (NAIC) and will feature classrooms, laboratories and a large presentation hall.

The building site, approved by President Waded Cruzado in April, is slated to replace about 400 spaces in the Gatton Lot south of the SUB, including the 200-space pay lot and 200 reserved and S/B spots in the commuter lot. The project is allocating $6 million toward a possible new parking garage, about half of it’s estimated cost. Though the $6 million doesn’t obligate construction of a garage, the donor believes the new complex should be served by adequate and convenient parking.

While the NAIC project suggests the construction of a parking garage and the campus master plan similarly anticipates the construction of numerous parking structures around the campus core, other ideas have been proposed. While Chief of University Police Robert Putzke argues that current parking availability is far from reaching capacity and the loss of parking could likely be absorbed by existing spaces, it would force a large number of people further out from campus. However, a number of people still believe that no construction of any sort is necessary. Another idea is to construct an additional surface lot to the south of, west of or near the stadium.

Any of these options would cause a large number of people to park farther from the campus core. Many have suggested remedying this by implementing a shuttle service from further lots to the center of campus. Putzke rebuffed this idea, saying that cost analysis shows it to be more expensive over the not-so-long-term — costing roughly half a million dollars each year — without adding a revenue-generating asset.

However, a new garage being constructed with the complex would yield 600 spaces in a three to four-level structure, actually increasing the number of spots servicing the campus core by 200.

It is estimated that the NAIC will take two years to complete. Putzke would like to see the garage started prior to the main building to minimize disruption to parking. With a goal of beginning construction on the garage this  coming summer, the university is on a tight timeline. Putzke thinks a recommendation will be ready for the president before winter break, which would allow the proposal to be brought before the Board of Regents in February.

Before any recommendations or proposals are made, Parking Services is soliciting the ideas and thoughts of students, staff and faculty. Two forums will be held in the coming week. The first is Thursday, Nov. 13 from 3 – 5 p.m. in Reid 108 and the second will be in Reid 105 on Wednesday, Nov. 19 from 5 – 7 p.m.

Putzke and Parking Services Manager Kurt Blunck invite any comments or questions. Robert Putzke can be contacted at rputzke@montana.edu and Kurt Blunck can be reached at kurt.blunck@montana.edu.