The Burlington City Council approved on Monday the narrowing of Main Street which will take away on-street parking spaces downtown. In the same resolution, they approved money to conduct a parking study to mitigate the loss.
With the new design of Main Street taking away all diagonal parking spaces and replacing them with parallel parking, the street will lose 67 spaces which amounts to 43% of parking.
Parking loss has been the biggest sticking point in discussions with downtown business owners about the project. The Department of Public Works’ memo to the council included notes from outreach meetings including one with the Church Street Marketplace Commission.
“Commission did speak to the strong concerns for the loss of parking with the proposed concept changes, and that consideration needs to be given to not only mitigating the parking loss but replacing the lost parking,” the memo reads.
Parking within 10-minute walk of Main Street
The re-design of Main Street is the last project in the city’s three-part Great Streets initiative to revitalize parts of Burlington’s downtown.
The Department of Public Works has met with stakeholders throughout the community about the project over the course of the past few months and design possibilities were presented at the council’s May 9 meeting. The narrowing of the street and the resulting parking loss will make way for protected bike lanes on either side of the road, wide pedestrian walkways and trees and plants along the sidewalks that will double as storm water management.
Public works engineer Laura Wheelock said the parking study will determine the existing availability of parking spaces within a five to 10 minute walk of Main Street, the need for parking, the way the city is using existing parking and the quality of signage that indicates where parking is.
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If the study finds that all the on-street parking being removed is needed, the consultant will offer options for replacing the parking. The parking study will not change the parallel parking design which was officially approved by council Monday.
J.P. Coseno, whose family owns North Start Sports on Main Street, commented at the Monday meeting about his concerns about parking.
“We have a lot of people loading and unloading bikes, purchasing bikes, things like that and just to do that is hard to walk multiple blocks with a broken bike or loading a bike into a car, so parking is definitely very important,” Coseno said. “We don’t sell a piece of clothing that someone can walk five blocks with in a bag.”
More money for Main Street project
Council members voted to allot $202,534 more to the project for the design consultant to continue community engagement meetings, do parking and intersection studies, traffic modeling and perform more underground surveying and investigation.
The council also approved an additional $217,000 in contingency funds for any future contract changes. The total cost of the project now stands at $1,663,665, which is within the limits of the bond approved in March.
The council also approved the project under the condition that the whole street have continuously separate bike and pedestrian paths.
In the previous plan, the sidewalk and bike lane would have been squeezed together into one shared-use path between South Winooski Avenue and South Union Street on the south side of the street because of a lack of space. Now, parking spaces will be removed to make room for both paths in response to significant community input.
The final design will be developed over the course of the next year. Wheelock said the parking study will be completed along a similar timeline but she hopes to have it complete before the final designs are done.
This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Burlington Main Street: Council approves plan and additional work