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Main Street panel discusses angled parking options

  • North Main Street, Concord during Market Days; Thursday, July 19, 2012.<br/><br/>(Alexander Cohn/ Monitor file)
  • North Main Street, Concord during Market Days; Thursday, July 19, 2012.<br/><br/>(Alexander Cohn/ Monitor file)

Concord’s Main Street advisory committee debated last night whether they would prefer angled parking on both sides of the street or angled parking along one side with parallel parking on the other.

For the first time in seven weeks of meetings, the committee began to decide between specific options for Concord’s 12-block, $7.85 million Main Street redesign.

The group unanimously decided against the ideas of parking along an island in the center of the street, four traffic lanes and three traffic lanes that would include a center turning lane. Only two committee members said they would consider parallel parking along both sides of Main Street, effectively eliminating the option.

Several committee members said they would like to consider a mixture of angled and parallel parking spaces, while others said they feared losing parking spaces. With angled parking, City Engineer Ed Roberge estimated the project would result in a loss of nine parking spaces. With both types of parking, the project would result in a loss of 35 parking spaces, Roberge said.

Committee member Domenic Ciavarro said a combination of parallel and angled parking could be a compromise between the need to have available parking spaces and desire to widen sidewalks and create a bicycle lane.

But by narrowing the street to one lane of traffic in either direction, committee member Will Delker said, motorists are already compromising.

“And so we’re giving up some of the travel way for the cars,” Delker said. “In exchange for that, we’re giving it to the sidewalks and the bikes. And the balance of that is that we get to keep the parking to accommodate that aspect of it.”

The city received a $4.71 million federal grant for the project in June, and the advisory committee has until the end of next week to present a report to the Concord City Council.

Committee member Mark Ciborowski suggested angled parking on both sides of the street, two traffic lanes with a center median and wider sidewalks on the east side of Main Street than on the west side. Most restaurants are on the east side, he said, and would benefit from having outdoor eating areas.

“I tell myself I don’t want to be too conservative, I don’t want to not be bold and get out there and do something dynamic,” he said. “But on the parking end, I agree we should be looking, if anything, to increase capacity, not try to minimize our loss.”

Beautiful sidewalks will look nice, Ciborowski said, but downtown businesses rely on parking. Even more convenient parking will be needed once the economy improves and landlords fill empty storefronts and office space, he said.

Committee member Dick Lemieux said he would like to see the city develop a parking plan and pricing structure. Main Street spaces could become short-term parking, he said, with parking garages used for longer visits.

“I kind of think that we can have our cake and eat it, too,” he said.

Lemieux, who is also chairman of the city’s Transportation Policy Advisory Committee, proposed angled parking on the west side of the street and parallel parking on the east side. Sidewalks could still be widened more on the east side of the street than the west, he said, allowing even more space for outdoor seating, landscaping and space for a designated bicycle lane in the street.

“It is unacceptable to go to parallel parking on either side of the street in my view,” said committee member Jay Surdukowski, drawing applause from downtown business owners seated in city council’s chambers last night.

But committee member Matt Elliott said he still likes the idea of parallel parking on one side of the street.

“I just don’t know how we make a complete street when we’re adding width with parking,” said.

The committee chose not to consider parking in the center of Main Street last night, after Roberge said it would likely result in travel lanes too narrow for emergency vehicles, delivery trucks or cars to pass one another when necessary.

The committee, formally called the Downtown Complete Streets Improvement Project Advisory Committee, has two more meetings scheduled before it presents a final report to the city council. On Tuesday, the group will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Concord Public Library, followed by a Thursday meeting at 7 p.m. in the city council’s chambers.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

If they are going to waste millions of dollars, they should leave the streets wide as they are now, take away the parking for bike lanes and build a parking garage. Now, the parking garage should be FREE as they are using our tax dollars to build it. Why should they charge for parking if we already pay in taxes to build the structure to begin with. VOILA! problems solved. But, no, let's spend millions of dollars studying and some fat cat, politically related "planners" can make a good living for a couple of years as they plan how to waste still more taxpayer dollars in a recession.

I agree that parking is a premium downtown and should be preserved. However, the angled parking makes it impossible to back out from parking to enter the travel lane, especially with four lanes and a large car parked next to you. I would prefer two lanes only between Loudon and Pleasant street. It would also allow for turn lanes which are needed. The CP could give statistics, but I would guess the accident rate is higher on that stretch than any other street in downtown. Barriers would be good for nothing less than eliminating those drivers who feel the need to turn across two lanes of oncoming traffic to turn into a parking spot on the other side of the street. But I also think that this is a lot of money to spend with minimal return on investment. The only reason I see to do this is for safety alone. It is a dangerous section to travel by car or walking.

Seems the best idea for parking is what is already there. I think we should pony up a few more million and debate it some more though.

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