Downtown traffic, parking debated
New London Public Works approves redesign for street stalls
By Scott Bellile
The New London Board of Public Works debated parking and traffic issues as they pertain to the two-year downtown reconstruction project beginning this summer.
Street parking redesign
The board recommended a tweak to the design of painted street parking stalls.
After the reconstruction project is completed, each pair of parking stalls will share one 8-foot box marked with an “X.” This box will provide motorists clearance to pull in or out of the space.
Each stall will become 4 feet shorter to make space for the “X,” but the downtown will not lose parking spaces from the configuration, Public Works Director Robert Garske said at the board’s May 1 meeting.
Ald. BaLynda Croy, a postal worker, said the “X” markings should stop people from parking too close to one another, which recently happened with her mail truck.
“I was as centered as I possibly could be, and then when I finished my relay, two different vehicles were there, and I had to wiggle out,” Croy said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. If I didn’t have a backup camera on there, I probably wouldn’t have even attempted it.”
Attendees of an April downtown public input meeting also favored the stall design, and the city council approved it Thursday, May 11.
The board tabled a proposal to have St. John’s Place and Lincoln Court be one-way streets.
The topic was discussed at April’s public input meeting where most attendees opposed it, Garske told the board.
Lincoln Court is currently one-way, and St. John’s Place is two-way.
The south half of Lincoln Court will be converted into parking lot while the north half is slated to become two-way in 2024.
St. John’s Place is set to remain two-way.
Alderpersons recently suggested making St. John’s Place one-way because motorists struggle to see oncoming traffic around parked cars when they exit the alley or enter West North Water Street.
The planned re-engineering of the downtown – which will include narrowing West North Water Street and shifting street parking stalls away from hazarous areas – will eliminate these safety concerns, Garske and Mayor Mark Herter said.
The two added they dislike the idea of one-way streets funneling motorists north of downtown if they fail to find parking because they may choose not to loop around and come back.
Alderpersons agreed parking will remain two-sided on St. John’s Place.
Some proposed a switch to one-sided parking as a solution to the visibility issue and a way to accommodate increased pedestrian traffic after the library opens in the First State Bank building in 2024.
The road is wide enough and traffic volume low enough to continue two-sided parking on St. John’s Place, Garske said.
He said the city could handle losing half its street parking on St. John’s Place because the public parking lot will be expanded, but the stalls are useful for accessibility.
“The thing is we just purchased the bank parking lot because there’s not enough parking in the city,” Ald. Bernie Ritchie Jr. said, referring to the city buying half of First State Bank’s west parking lot for the parking expansion. “But now you want to eliminate parking on St. John’s Street? To me it don’t make sense to eliminate parking when we just spent $92,000 for a parking lot.”
“If you’ve got parking on both sides, if there’s cars on both sides and you come through there, it is tight,” Ald. Dave Dorsey said, but he expects less congestion after the expanded parking lot opens.
Overnight parking fee
Alderpersons debated a proposal to charge people to park their vehicles overnight in public parking lots including those downtown.
A fee could backfire by discouraging intoxicated bar patrons from leaving their car and finding a ride, Croy said.
“We don’t want to hurt our downtown businesses by saying your customers are going to get towed away if they park over here overnight,” Croy said.
Business owners already will be inconvenienced by the downtown construction, Ald. Tim Roberts said.
“Are you trying to kill your downtown?” Roberts asked.
City officials will research the topic further and present it at a future meeting.
Car charging stations
Ald. Robert Besaw asked if the city has discussed implementing electric car charging stations downtown.
They are worth considering for the parking lot expansion, Herter said.
“At minimum, I mean, we can put some conduit in the ground just to be prepared for it,” City Administrator Chad Hoerth said.