The Tantalus parking lot
Oooohhhh, it's just soooo close …
Before the current hard times hit, the state legislature approved some major bucks for the community college where I teach to make some major capital improvements. One of those improvements was the construction of a new campus bookstore at the campus where I teach most of the time. It's going to be great, once it's done – a new and much bigger bookstore that will include a coffee bar, and that will have a second story devoted primarily to office space, so we faculty won't be packed in quite so much like sardines.
A side effect of the construction was that a parking lot has been removed, and while the parking at this college is not in as dire short supply as on many other campuses, it's still less than is really needed. Students and faculty have been inconvenienced by the shortage of parking, and at peak times, it can take a half hour or more to find a parking spot. The light at the end of the tunnel is that the construction plans called for adding a new parking lot that is much bigger than the one that was lost.
That parking lot is almost reality. In January, at the beginning of the spring term, the area had been graded, and concrete curbs had been installed, delineating the perimeter of the lot and the landscaped islands within it. Word was that the lot would be paved and open for parking within about a month.
About a month later, the first layer of pavement was laid down, and about a week after that, additional paving was added, bringing the surface of the lot level with the curb gutters. Okay, the project was a little behind schedule, but in New Mexico, what project isn't? Surely we were going to have that new parking lot soon.
Then many weeks went by with nothing much happening at all. The office area in which I have my cubicle has a wall of windows facing northeast, allowing a fantastic view of the Sandia Mountains in all of their close-up majesty – and also of that expanse of blacktop, vast acres unused except for the occasional construction vehicle. We watched as late-winter and early-spring snows piled up and melted, piled up and melted again. We observed the spring winds, bringing twisting swirls of dust that left the surface dulled with a tan tint, looking used when it had hardly seen a single vehicle. And we wondered when we might actually be able to park on it.
Three weeks ago, activity resumed. Workers came and left chalk marks delineating parking spaces, and then they waited for a relatively non-windy day (there aren't many of those in New Mexico in the spring), on which they came back and painted lines. Ah, we thought, maybe now we will be able to use the new parking lot.
Not quite. About a week later, the workers brought in concrete parking blocks, which were then installed in all of the freshly-painted parking spaces.
It's now the last week of the term. The parking lot still has not been opened. But there's a good sign. A portable fence has been erected, separating the westernmost end of the lot, the end adjacent to the building still under construction, from the rest of the lot. That leads me to believe that most of the parking lot is about to be opened to general parking, with just that end fenced off for continuing construction.
Just in time for the end of the term.