Published: January 17, 2014
By: Allen Reed
The controversial Texas A&M parking garages have been sent back to the drawing board and current plans do not call for as much of a hike to parking permit prices. Notably, both garages now have official backing from A&M administrators.
Former President R. Bowen Loftin, in December before he stepped down, killed a plan that could have raised parking permit prices for students, faculty and staff by about 20 percent The plans are again being considered by the Council for Built Environment, which authorizes university construction.
"We went back to athletics and student affairs," said Provost Karan Watson, who co-chairs the CBE. "Bowen [Loftin] essentially said until there's a formal request we won't go further with this. CBE went back to them and said we're going nowhere with this until you formally request it, and now they have."
Athletic Director Eric Hyman has formally endorsed a Kyle Field garage plan that would not raise permit prices and Residence Life Director Chareny Rydl and Transportation Services Director Peter Lange have thrown their support behind the need for a garage to service the proposed West Campus dorms.
After it ran into opposition, no one claimed credit for the original garage plan that would have caused the fee hike. Student, faculty and staff leadership all formally denounced plans to increase everyone's fees to pay for a garage that they said would primarily service football patrons.
The original proposal was to build four garages simultaneously, including the Kyle Field and West Campus garage. Two of the garages, one near the engineering complex and the other near the northside dorms, were already planned and financially accounted for, but two in question were recommended by the CBE late last semester. The Kyle Field garage would be built on the west side of the stadium along Wellborn Road, and the west campus garage would be built on top of the Howdy Farm. To build all four at once, as the committee originally suggested, could have raised parking permit prices for students, staff and faculty by 20 to 22.5 percent, according to documents obtained by The Eagle.
Those plans have now changed and it is unclear what will get built when. The CBE is currently working through the timing for building the garages and how much permit fees will rise to accommodate the West Campus garage.
Lange said the details of the West Campus garage are being worked on through the CBE. Hyman said the plan for the Kyle Field garage would not financially affect parking permit prices.
"There's not going to be any impact cost-wise for parking permits to students, faculty and staff," Hyman said. "I know sometimes things get a life of their own. We were trying to work through all these issues and it takes time and sometimes issues get ahead of us. But the bottom line is the way we'll handle it financially is a third [of the cost] will be an increase to game day parking through the 12th Man Foundation, a third of the cost athletics is paying for and a third is other events and activities that we have over there."
The plans need to be formally reviewed and voted on by the CBE. From there they will go before A&M Interim President Mark Hussey, who will make a recommendation to the A&M System Board of Regents on how to proceed. The garage plans will not make the January regents agenda, meaning that the plans will take until at least May to finalize.
One student leader responded favorably to the news.
"I think it shows responsiveness on the part of the administration to the concerns of faculty, staff and students because it's not just students who would be impacted here," said Chris Russo, speaker of the student senate. "I think if there is a way to finance that new Kyle Field garage without an increase in permit prices, then that would be a win for everybody involved."
He said students would prefer the parking garage plans increase rates as little as possible.
"Responsible stewardship would say that we should choose the more modest option when it comes to rate increases if at all possible," he said.