Some will pack schedules into one day to eliminate the hassle of driving to the Portland Campus twice in one week. Others will take a bus, bike or walk.

Rebekah Schroer and Tamothy Holden, senior nursing majors, already have a parking game plan for next semester. Schroer volunteered to take a 7 a.m. class. She will get up early in the morning to make her commute. She doesn’t mind as long as it guarantees her a spot.

Holden is taking the same class, but in the afternoon session, which coincides with the time Schroer finishes her classes. With precise timing, Holden can take Schroer’s parking spot.

If that doesn’t work out, Holden has an alternative.

“My boyfriend goes to school at MECA (Maine College of Art). I’m hoping he will give me a ride to school.”

The parking routine will take a drastic change for most of the campus community. Ground breaking for the parking garage will begin in early January. When the Bedford Street lot loses 350 spaces, only 175 spaces will be available for parking. The plans are for the construction of the 1,200-car garage to be completed by the spring semester of 2004. Until then, parking on the Portland campus will be messy.

However, Steve Rand, registrar and head of the parking committee, said the finish date is a pessimistic view and hopes the garage will be completed sooner.

“In the beginning of the second semester when people start driving on campus looking for a parking space it will be very tough and word will spread very quickly that parking is limited,” said Bob Caswell, executive director of media and community relations.

In January the first stage of construction will consist of driving foundation pilings because of marine clay in the lower soil levels. The pile driving should not take longer than four to six weeks, Rand said.

“Environmentally it is very noisy, but we will have to live through it,” he said. “Space is too tight to change classrooms and schedules.”

However a few departments have agreed to alter their schedules to ease the parking congestion. Marianne Rodgers, chair and associate professor of nursing, talked with her faculty to change some of the upper-level nursing classes. The faculty agreed to teach early morning classes.

“We thought by stretching classes out there are fewer students on campus at the same time,” she said. “Any extra space is a help.”

The University is taking a proactive approach in the “WE HAVE A SPOT FOR YOU!” campaign. A marketing campaign has been organized that will answer the community’s concerns and questions. The Web site, www.usm.maine.edu/parking, is a forum designed to promote dialog during the construction period.

One solution to the lack of parking will be satellite lots. A lot of 209 spaces will be available at Sam’s Club in Scarborough. Students, staff and faculty can park and take the Gorham and Portland bus, said Caswell.

The University has also leased 107 spaces at 15 Baxter Blvd. The Marginal Way lot will have more spaces by removing the skate-park that is currently there. Metro, Portland’s public transportation company, will offer free passes for people to park and ride at Pride’s Corner and at the Legion Hall on Route 25 in Gorham. Metro also offers half-price fares for anyone showing a USM ID, Caswell said.

During the first week of the semester the University will observe how many people take the shuttle buses to determine if more need to be added to routes, Rand said.

The Portland campus will have open parking, which allows the USM community to park in all lots.

“The only parking lot which will not include open parking is the lot in front of the Woodbury Campus Center. That will be for students only,” Rand said.

There is already speculation as to how the atmosphere will hold up on the campus.

“What irks me is that I still have to pay the parking fee and I only have one day of classes next semester,” said Holden.

“Anyone who rides their bike or skate boards will have a hard time in the winter. They picked a really poor time to start the project,” said Martin Manning, junior communication and media studies major.

Manning has a car but rarely brings it to campus. He takes the Portland Hall shuttle bus to classes. Yet for his Friday class, when campus traffic is light, he drives his car. Now he might park in Marginal Way lot.

The University is trying to make the transition as easy as possible, but understands the lack of parking will be an inconvenience for many. Ultimately, the University views the changes as an improvement in the long run.

People will have to relearn and educate themselves about where to park, Rand said.

A decision was made to schedule lectures and events on the Gorham campus to prevent more parking congestion.

“I hear people talk about how long it takes to park. By the time I drove in and parked I could have ridden my bike to class and got something to eat,” said Matthew Clifford, senior economics major.

Rather than parking off campus some might change their schedules. Craig Bardsley, senior environmental health and safety major, said he would come to campus earlier in order to have a better chance of finding a spot.

To ease the parking muddle, Bardsley said, “Get your friend to drive you and drop you off, then its not your parking problem anymore.”

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