Main Street panel discusses angled parking options
North Main Street, Concord during Market Days; Thursday, July 19, 2012. (Alexander Cohn/ Monitor file) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
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.