2016 Parking plan presented at SGA

Vice President of Finance and Operations Carlos Hernandez and Huntsville City Manager Matt Benoit attended the Student Government Association meeting last night to discuss an upcoming project that will provide 164 new parking spaces as well as other changes for Sam Houston State.
“Additional parking will be a benefit to the entire campus community,” Hernandez said. “With the addition of parking and the narrowing of the length of lanes, we’ll increase pedestrian safety.”
Another change to expect by next fall is two-way roads will become one-way roads. However, speed limits are not expected to change.
“The interaction of people pulling in and out of parking spaces combined with the fact that the lanes are narrower should slow traffic,” Benoit said. “The intent behind slow traffic is safer crossing of the roadway.”
The new parking spaces will be slanted on the sides of the one-way roads. Who will receive access to the new parking spaces and how access will be granted has not yet been determined. Options discussed during the meeting included the spots being leased to the university or an app that substitutes parking meters.
“In either case, it has to be a controlled parking experience,” Hernandez said. “It can’t be a free space because that would result in far more competition between students and the faculty and staff.”
The city also plans to construct new sidewalks from Highway 19 to Avenue J on both sides of SHSU. They also plan to complete the sidewalks on one side of Avenue J and build new sidewalks on both sides Montgomery. This will benefit students who bike to and from campus.
“I would say that this [project] was a student driven initiative,” Benoit said. “We are simply wanting to provide the option [for students to ride their bikes] if they wish.”
SHSU does not require students to purchase permits to park their bicycles on campus. Bike railings will not be along the sidewalks because the law only requires this when there is a change in elevation.
“The council has understood from the students [that sidewalks] will give more pedestrian access to students,” Benoit said.
The council is considering changing the crosswalks around campus and potentially adding new areas to cross.
“Fundamentally, we’re trying to change behavior,” Hernandez said. “If that change in behavior is successful, there may not be a need for additional crosswalks.”
New sidewalks will cost about $3 million dollars. Parking spot painting and potential new crosswalks will cost between $50,000-$75,000.
“We had an opportunity through the Texas Department of Transportation to get some grant funds to help pay for the new sidewalks,” Benoit said. “I think it will take some getting used to, but I don’t think it will be a prolonged period of adjustment.”
This entire council project has been discussed for more than three years, but has been seriously concerned for the past year and a half. The full completion of the project is expected after two years.
“I think in anything that involves change management, there’s going to be mixed reactions,” Hernandez said. “There’s a population of students that will see this as a positive thing with the parking on campus, and there’s going to be a group that sees the change as a bad thing…because it doesn’t provide a permanent parking solution to the larger parking challenge we face as a campus.”
Students are encouraged to visit the city hall website and be active in the community. Questions and suggestions about this upcoming project can be directed to Benoit at mbenoit@huntsvilletx.gov.

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