Regents talk parking

The University will lose 800 parking spots during on-campus stadium construction.

by Tiff Clements

The Board of Regents and University officials addressed student and faculty parking concerns surrounding the new on-campus stadium in a special meeting Tuesday.

The Board approved President Bob Bruininks’ recommendation to acquire about 11 acres of land near the site of the new TCF Bank Stadium and East Gateway District for surface parking lot construction through their power of eminent domain.

The eight regents in attendance unanimously approved the measures. Regents Anthony Baraga, Maureen Cisneros, John Frobenius and Venora Hung didn’t attend the meeting.

Bill Donohue, deputy general counsel for the University, said the University, as a public institution, has authority through the state to take private land for public use without the owner’s consent as long as fair market value is paid. The University has not released the value of the land.

“This particular eminent domain action involves the Union Pacific (railroad),” Donohue said. “We’re trying to actually get released on some land that we own, and we are trying to get easements over some land that they own.”

The railroad holds easements – legal permission from land owners for another party to use a portion of that land, in this case for train tracks – on University-owned land. The regents’ approval of the use of eminent domain means the railroad company will lose its rights to use the land.

Donohue said the University is also seeking some easements of its own on property not owned by the University for access to planned lots.

University spokesman Dan Wolter said the regents’ use of eminent domain will speed up land discussions with

Union Pacific and allow the University to begin construction on replacement

much sooner.

“We have been in negotiations with the railroad about this,” he said. “Sometimes those can be long and drawn out negotiations.”

Parking lot construction plans call for the railroad’s train tracks to be removed, Wolter said.

Construction of the stadium is scheduled to begin in July. Current plans eliminate nearly 3,500 surface parking stalls in the Huron Boulevard Parking Complex to make way for the stadium.

Vice President of University Services Kathleen O’Brien said the requested land will be used for approximately 2,700 replacement parking spaces.

“It’s necessary for us to still provide for a number of University students, faculty and staff affordable parking, which is what the surface lots provide,” she said.

O’Brien said University officials want to find additional parking spaces around campus to make up the difference.

“Around 800 (spaces) we’re seeking to replace in temporary parking,” she said. “Our objective here is to ensure that we have the same parking availability before construction, during construction and after construction.”

Commuter Connection Co-chairman David Gustafson said the loss of parking spaces could impact a large number of University students.

He said 42 percent of University students commute from 10 miles or more.

The aerospace engineering sophomore said the suggestion to find alternative transportation offered in a March e-mail from Parking and Transportation Services isn’t feasible for many commuters.

Gustafson said he thinks students will just adjust to parking inconveniences and doesn’t expect many commuter students to leave their cars at home.

“For a lot of people, that’s not an option,” he said. “The buses don’t run by your house, or you have a weird schedule and it doesn’t work very well, and you live too far to bike or walk, so driving is your only option.”