Penn State

‘That is not a town-gown approach.’ Penn State parking deck plan draws concerns

A new parking deck on Penn State’s campus is planned to be located on Red Lot A, pictured here in May.
A new parking deck on Penn State’s campus is planned to be located on Red Lot A, pictured here in May. Centre Daily Times, file

Penn State plans to build a six- or seven-level parking garage on West Campus, which would have 1,670 spaces. State College Borough Council members and residents expressed concerns about one of the potential routes in and out of that deck at Monday’s council meeting.

Right now on west campus, there are surface lots that hold 799 spaces. Developing a parking deck will unlock the development potential of those surface lots so the university can grow the west campus, said Neil Sullivan, campus planner from Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant.

The new deck is planned to be located on Red Lot A, which will allow the university to have two building sites along White Course Drive, he said.

The anticipated opening of the deck is fall 2020. Access to the new deck will include two ingress and egress locations. One of those entrance/exit points would be to Atherton Street, as it currently works for the surface lots. The other is proposed to be an access road that loops around the White Course Apartments and filters down and out Buckhout Street.

The Buckhout connection is Penn State’s preference, and it has been advanced into a Traffic Impact Study, said Robb Watts, of McCormick Taylor Inc., Penn State’s traffic engineer.

The traffic study will assume a traffic signal being put in at Buckhout Street and West College Avenue, he said.

According to Watts, the anticipated added trips for the entire network would be 147 in the morning and 212 in the afternoon.

Additionally, about 35 percent of people accessing the new deck are expected to use the new access and 65 percent would use the existing Atherton Street access, Watts said.

State College Borough Council President Evan Myers questioned why constructing a road to connect to Blue Course Drive wasn’t considered.

Watts said it wasn’t considered due to the environmental impact. There’s a 400-feet radius of restriction for wellhead protection in that area.

“I find it disrespectful, quite frankly, that this council asked you to consider another way over to Blue Course and you did not. … That is not a town-gown approach to anything. It’s the university once again imposing what it wants on the rest of the community,” Myers said. “And the community often finds ways to oppose that and prevent that from happening. So what I would suggest is that we figure out a way to work together.”

Members of council and residents expressed concerns that the access through Buckhout would be used as intended, with traffic flowing onto College Avenue or Beaver Avenue, depending on which way motorists are traveling.

“Real commuters are not going to be as well behaved as you think they are,” Bill Hartman, a resident who lives on Fairmount Avenue, said. “I think traffic is like water, it’s going to find the path of least resistance. And the path of least resistance, I’m afraid, is going to be distributed throughout the neighborhood on all the streets.”

It’ll be dangerous for the people who live in the neighborhood and the kids who attend Corl Street Elementary School, Myers said.

“Why is it that the town gets saddled with this mess and the campus doesn’t take responsibility for it?,” Councilwoman Janet Engeman asked.

Watts said the next steps are for a council comment resolution meeting and a final Traffic Impact Study approval is targeted for February.

Penn State's Rolling Lion Truck will be a new staple at Penn State football home games. The truck will be parked on Curtin Road from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

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