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Long-planned garage renovation begins

The parking garage on West Ninth Avenue was closed Monday morning, marking the start of a reconstruction phase that was planned nearly 18 months ago.
Sarah Blouch, the director of Transportation and Parking Services, said the main reason for the shutdown is the number of safety issue complaints over the past three years from staff who use the garage.
In the past, winter was the only season that produced safety complaints, Blouch said. Five complaints have been filed, but no one pursued legal action.
“We didn’t want to wait for that to happen,” she said.
The initial plans went into action in March when officials began to test different surfaces in the Ninth Avenue West Parking Garage and the results were unsatisfactory. It was decided the new surface would be the same as the neighboring Ninth Avenue East Parking Garage, which opened Sept. 1.
Officials had planned to close the west garage when the east garage opened. However, when preparing the west garage for resurfacing took longer than expected the closure was delayed until yesterday morning.
Renovated in 2006, the west garage was given a sturdy application of a water-repellent membrane that helped preserve the concrete floors. The primary concern was whether the membrane contained the appropriate “grit” to ensure safety.
Although the coating exceeded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommendations, there were still complaints over slippery surfaces. In order to meet customer expectations, Parking and Transportation officials began brainstorming solutions to the problem. Finally, it was decided that the old coating would be stripped and replaced with a new one. The new mix contains more sand and gravel to help improve traction when surfaces are wet or snowy.
The total cost for the project is expected to be between $350,000 and $400,000.
Blouch said she hopes the bottom two levels of the west garage will remain open during the resurfacing process. The east garage has 998 spots, only eight fewer than the west, so overcrowding should not be an issue, Blouch said. Opening the bottom level would also make 300 additional spots available to staff members.
The new coating will be applied by a spray. This leaves a chance of overspray onto the cars in the bottom level, so closure is a possibility.
Blouch remains optimistic.
“We believe we can keep the lower level open for the duration of the project,” she said.
Officials predict the project will be completed within three to four weeks.

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