In a deal approved at last Thursday’s City Council meeting, the University will shoulder 78 percent of the costs to build a proposed parking structure on Fuller Road, and, in return, the University will receive 78 percent of the spots available in the lot.
City Council also unanimously approved a master design plan for the 1,000-plus spot parking structure on Fuller Road, just north of the hospital, which is the first phase of the Fuller Intermodal Transportation Station (FITS) — a project that some view as the future of transportation in Ann Arbor.
Councilmember Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) emphasized that while construction will begin on the Fuller Road parking structure in the near future, the accompanying transportation hub is still in the initial design phase.
“The only permanent thing we’re getting is a parking structure,” Anglin said.
The structure will include more than 1,000 spaces, 78 percent of which will be reserved for University use, according to Jim Kosteva, the University’s director of community relations. That percentage corresponds to the University’s funding of the project, estimated at around $45 million of the estimated $60 million total cost.
The parking structure will also include a covered bus waiting area and space for bike racks and locks, in preparation for the possibility of a transit center.
Kosteva said the structure will most likely be operational by the middle of 2012, in time for the opening of the new 12-story C.S. Mott Children’s and Women’s Hospital.
He pointed out that the parking structure will provide much-needed parking to hospital employees, patients and visitors.
Kosteva said that was the main reason the city approached the University regarding funding support. He said that in 2005, the University began planning a similar parking structure on Wall Street, near the medical campus. However, the plan fell through earlier this year, Kosteva said, when the University began negotiating with city officials about the Fuller Road structure.
Anglin confirmed that city officials considered the Hospital’s parking shortage as they mapped out the transit station.
“The University definitely needs the parking in that section,” Anglin said. “The structure will relieve that parking burden.”
In addition to providing hospital parking, the transit station is also part of an ambitious plan to both establish a local commuter rail service and to link different forms of transportation through what Councilmember Stephen Rapundalo (D–Ward 2) called “an intermodal center, bringing together trains, cars, buses and integrating cycling and pedestrians.”
The ultimate goal, Rapundalo said, is to reduce the number of cars entering and leaving the city, as well as those within the city itself.
Anglin said the transit center, with its proximity to the Amtrak rail, will help lay the foundation for a transportation hub by providing parking, bike storage and busing for commuters.
“This center has the infrastructure potential for further development,” Anglin said.
Those potential developments include establishing East-West and North-South commuter trains to accommodate the roughly 75,000 commuters who come into town every day, Rapundalo said.
“We’re definitely looking at a much broader transportation network (than currently exists)”, Rapundalo said.
Both Rapundalo and Anglin pointed out that these changes can’t take place without comprehensive community-wide budget conversations.
“I hope that we can move forward, but in this economy it’s hard to tell,” Anglin said.
The transit station, therefore, is the first phase in the city’s broader plan to both decrease traffic congestion around the city and to make Ann Arbor a more visible transportation hub.
According to Anglin, even high-speed rails aren’t completely out of the question.
“At this point I think that’s just a pipe dream,” he said. “But it certainly could move in that direction if all the pieces came together.”