USM breaks ground on new alternative transportation-focused parking garage in Portland

On Friday, April 15 in Portland, University of Southern Maine administrators, honored guests, campus neighbors and local media gathered at the construction site gates of USM’s forthcoming Portland parking garage to ceremonially break ground on the new facility.

Shovels hit the dirt in the climax of the groundbreaking ceremony for the new parking garage on the Portland Campus.
The ceremonial groundbreaking reached its climax as shovels hit the dirt.

Sited between the existing Abromson Center parking garage, Glickman Library, and the Wishcamper Center, the new parking garage is a key component of the University’s Portland Campus Development project. The project officially began in 2021 and is the largest construction endeavor in USM history, according to USM Chief Operating Officer & Chief Business Officer Alec Porteous, who opened the groundbreaking with sincere gratitude for all involved in the project’s development.

An artist's rendering shows the entrance of the new parking garage to be located behind the Wishcamper Center on the Portland Campus.
An artist’s rending demonstrates traffic flow into the new garage.

Already well underway, the Portland Campus Development Project will transform the Portland campus with the addition of a 42,000 square-foot Career & Student Success Center, an adjacent 580-bed residence hall known as Portland Commons, a 1-acre green quad, and a new parking garage designed to encourage alternative modes of transportation and reduce reliance on single-occupancy vehicles.

“This is not just a parking garage; it’s a statement about the future,” explained USM President Glenn Cummings, who commuted to the event astride his bicycle, as he does daily. “At USM we are focused on building a culture that values fiscal, environmental, and human sustainability. We aspire to be a leader in all sustainable practices – taking good care of the environment, physical and financial resources, and people. In fact, we aim to be a carbon neutral University by the year 2040. This is why our new Residence Hall is on track to earn a Passive House certification, which will result in it using 50% of the energy that a normal building built to code would use. This is also why our new Career & Student Success Center is currently on track to be a LEED-certified building.” 

The new parking garage will feature 58 Level Two electric vehicle (EV) charging spots, an in-house bicycle maintenance shop, long-term secure storage for over 250 bicycles, and approximately 500 vehicle parking spaces. The garage’s design incorporated alternative modes of transportation from the very beginning, according to USM Director of Sustainability Aaron Witham.

President Glenn Cummings flashes a smile during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new parking garage on the Portland Campus.
Excitement surrounding the new garage registers on President Glenn Cummings’ face.

“The design and development of this parking garage began with a Transportation Demand Management plan to ensure the facility would be right-sized and consider feedback from students, campus neighbors, the City of Portland, the METRO, and other key stakeholders,” said Witham. “Our Transportation Demand Management plan includes 27 initiatives aimed at getting more of our students, staff, faculty and visitors walking, biking, carpooling, taking public transportation and driving electric vehicles to campus, all with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the year 2025.”

An artist's rendering of the new parking garage is inserted into an aerial view of the Portland Campus to show its location relative to other facilities.
An aerial view shows where the new garage will fit into the layout of the Portland Campus.

USM student Emily Laroche worked alongside Witham throughout the Transportation Demand Management planning process as a sustainable transportation intern and she is a member of the USM Eco-reps program. Laroche joined Witham at the groundbreaking to explain how the new garage will expand the Portland campus’ secure bicycle storage capacity beyond the standards of other renowned bike-friendly cities including Cambridge, MA, and Washington D.C.

“On the first floor, front and center will be a dedicated, covered, secured bicycle storage room and maintenance shop for students able to bicycle to campus. This is in addition to the 40 indoor bike parking spaces we will be providing in the new residence hall. Together, with the new outdoor racks we will be installing here and across campus, USM will be adding 410 bike parking spaces, bringing our campus total to 670,” said Laroche.

To put these numbers into perspective, USM’s new bicycle storage capacity will:

  • Be double the amount suggested by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals for short-term parking for students and employees
  • Exceed Washington D.C.’s amount of covered parking per occupant of a new residence hall
  • Exceed Cambridge, Massachusetts’ requirements for long-term parking and exceed by more than double its requirements for short-term parking
A crowd gathers to watch the groundbreaking ceremony for the new parking garage on the Portland Campus.
A crowd gathers to watch the ceremony at the construction site behind the Wishcamper Center.

Commuters and visitors coming to campus will also have easy access to the Greater Portland METRO’s buses, which will arrive and depart adjacent to the new garage.

“In fact, over 100 bus trips per day are accessible within a quarter mile walk of this location, allowing this place to serve as a multi-modal hub,” Laroche noted. “Beyond the sustainability infrastructure we are putting into place here, we have numerous other education, marketing, and incentive programs we are launching for alternative transportation. I am proud to be a student at USM, working on these initiatives and gaining professional development experience for my career through real, hands-on work.”

An active construction site served as the backdrop for the groundbreaking ceremony in celebration of the new parking garage on the Portland Campus.
Construction crews continued their work throughout the groundbreaking ceremony.

To learn more about the ongoing transformation of the Portland Campus and stay up-to-date on the latest USM news, visit the project website, and be sure to follow USM on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.