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It should be good news for motorists at the University of Utah: The school's parking authorities plan to build two new parking garages.

Both will be located on existing parking lots, one in the west-central part of campus near Milton Bennion Hall and the Huntsman Center, and the other on the northwest side, close to the Sutton Building. Officials plan to break ground on the $20 million project shortly after the end of the school year this spring, said Alma Allred, director of commuter services.

When the new garages are complete, the total number of spaces will be 1,132 — more than triple the 331 spots available now in those two lots combined. Should be a big relief for anyone who's spent time circling campus hunting for a parking space, right?

Well, not really.

"We really don't project in the long run that this will be any more parking that we currently have. This will just keep out heads above water," said Allred.

As the campus grows, new projects are often built on parking lots, replacing spaces with, say, a new running track.

When planners choose whether to build on parking lots or green space, "asphalt always loses," Allred said.

With new projects in the works, such as the law school expansion and repair of electrical lines, more spaces will be lost — and the two lots where the garages are being built will be out of commission during construction.

All told, there are about 11,000 parking spots permitted for students and faculty to serve a population of about 43,000 campus commuters. Visitors can hunt for one of about 1,350 spaces at pay lots or meters.

Even though a respectable 9,000 people or so take public transit, "it isn't feasible to expect everyone to take TRAX," Allred said.

The new garages are slated to allow covered student parking, though the permits will be more expensive than the typical, approximately $160-a-year permit. The project will be paid for from parking fees.

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