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Concord

Main St. panel toys with center parking

Committee has 17 days to finish

Concord’s Main Street advisory committee heard ideas from a number of groups with an interest in the streetscape project last night, including a proposal to move parking to the middle of the street.

The 17-member committee now has two weeks before its deadline to recommend a design to the Concord City Council.

Last night, Gerry Carrier, owner of Little River Oriental Rugs on North Main Street, asked the committee to consider angled parking along a center island, with one lane of traffic on each side.

“It opens things up considerably,” he said.

Carrier said the design would allow bikes to travel along the curbs instead of next to the parked cars, and cars would not block storefronts.

City Engineer Ed Roberge said he had “a voice of caution” about that option, but will analyze it for the committee. He said parking may be lost where the city needs left-turn lanes, and a center island could slow traffic by eliminating a center turn lane or median for cars to pass one another when necessary.

The city’s Transportation Policy Advisory Committee, or TPAC, considered a center parking option, said Dick Lemieux, a member of the Main Street committee and chairman of TPAC. Lemieux said TPAC did not recommend the design because people would likely cross the street where they parked their car rather than walking to a crosswalk. That would be unsafe and slow traffic, he said.

“(Pedestrians) would be inclined to just jump across the street,” Lemieux said. “So we felt that that safety impact would be unacceptable in meeting our intention of a complete street.”

The city received a $4.71 million federal grant in June to redesign 12 blocks of Concord’s Main Street, with a requirement that the project supports all modes of transportation.

Jim Sudak, director of Capital Area Transit, told the committee last night that he is working with the city to find bus stop locations within a new streetscape design. It may be possible to move some stops onto side streets, Sudak said.

“We’re here to serve the public,” Sudak said. “And it’s one playground. We’re all in it. . . . And I’m more than wiling to work with the city and things like that if we need to move it.”

But, Sudak said, many people use the bus stops downtown. In a three-day period last November, he said a total of 426 people got off the bus at the State House or Eagle Square stops, and a total of 455 people boarded buses there. Other stops along Main Street are not as busy, he said, and changing bus stops or bus routes would include a public hearing process.

The committee also heard last night from groups concerned with the appearance of Main Street. Ward 5 City Councilor Rob Werner, chairman of the city’s Energy and Environment Committee, asked the committee to consider street trees, recycling containers, porous pavement and rain gardens that would retain storm water.

Werner said his committee also supports heating the sidewalks and Main Street with a system from Concord Steam, “provided that it’s only heated with waste heat.”

Bob Carey, a member of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce’s Creative Concord Committee, said an attractive streetscape is important to the project. He suggested the city hold a contest for artists to design items such as trash receptacles or newspaper kiosks and encouraged the creation of “pocket parks” where there is open space.

“Aesthetics considerations are a way to make it attractive and get people to stay,” Carey said.

Following its public input event on Wednesday night, the committee – formally called the Downtown Complete Streets Improvement Project Advisory Committee – will begin weighing design options to develop a final report. The committee will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. in the city council’s chambers at 37 Green Street.

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

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