DDA looks at parking issues

ESCANABA – Concerns about parking and traffic flow in downtown Escanaba were expressed by a handful of business owners and residents during a recent public forum at city hall.

The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) hosted the gathering so information could be presented to the public and input could be received from the public on issues related to downtown parking.

DDA Director Ed Legault said there are 10 public parking lots owned by the DDA and four municipal parking lots owned by the city in the downtown area.

“All of the lots are within a half a block from Ludington Street either on 1st Avenue North or 1st Avenue South,” he explained. “There are also several private business parking lots that add additional parking capacity downtown.”

A total of 1,673 parking spaces make up the public parking lots on Ludington Street between 2nd Street and Stephenson Avenue and in the public lots one block north and one block south along this stretch, he added.

A downtown market study conducted in early 2006 concluded there is more than enough parking for downtown Escanaba with many of the lots being under-utilized, said Legault. The report also recommended the angle parking that is currently used in the downtown area today, he noted.

Greg Mitchell, owner of Ferdinand’s Mexican Restaurant, said he’s been asking for years for more parking on the 1300 block. He added the public parking lot behind his business is mostly used by downtown renters and not always available to customers patronizing nearby businesses.

“We need more parking…to facilitate these businesses,” Mitchell commented, saying he doesn’t want to beg anymore but wants to meet with the planning commission to put some plans together.

Lynn Fitzgerald, the owner of The Ritz on the same block, said she agreed with Mitchell and said additional parking would help the neighboring businesses because there is a lot of activity on the 1300 block.

Peggy O’Connell, owner of Positively! on the 1300 block, expressed concerns about business owners and employees parking in front of businesses and taking up space where customers could park. She also praised the city for its snow removal and angle parking.

Legault said the DDA will continue to address parking concerns by looking into installing more signage to make the public aware of available parking. Information about parking could also be listed on the DDA and city websites.

In addition to parking issues, comments were also made about the two right-to-left lane mergers on Ludington Street because of angle parking from the 800 to 1400 blocks.

Resident Dave Sullivan said he’s heard complaints and witnessed a driver not seeing the merger and driving into the painted angle parking areas.

Lines on the road and a couple different signs alert drivers to the mergers, explained City Engineer/Public Works Superintendent Bill Farrell.

Large orange barrels a block beyond the two mergers are temporarily warning drivers of the absence of right turn lanes. New flexible orange posts will be permanently installed, said Farrell.

Concerns were also expressed Wednesday about the need for the left turn lanes that are in the middle of Ludington Street.

Escanaba Public Safety Capt. Jamie Segorski said, “The turn lanes help the flow of traffic and prevent accidents.”

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net