By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord made the motion that the Park Street project be modified to reflect angled parking at 45 degrees on the east and west sides of Park Street, initially striping two lanes with an east-side sidewalk width of eight-foot and a west-side sidewalk width of 10-foot.
The measure passed 3-2 with both Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch and Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer voting “no.”
Commissioners had originally approved the Park Street plan in recent weeks, but the matter was revisited after concerns were raised by some city officials and business owners.
The issue was outlined in a July 20 letter from Boyne City Main Street Program Manager Hugh Conklin to Boyne City Manager Michael Cain, the Main Street Board unanimously recommended the city rescind its prior vote to approve the Park Street project which would have maintained the parking alignment to remain with angled parking and instead asked that parallel parking be approved for both sides of Park Street between the intersection of Water Street and the alley between Ray and Water streets.
“The most pressing concern is how the approved plan, which maintains the current parking configuration of angle parking on the Ace Hardware side and parallel on the Pat O’Brien and Associates side, creates severe safety issues with the lane alignment,” Conklin wrote. “The issue became obvious … when the outline of the new layout was marked on the street.”
According to Conklin, while the plan looked acceptable on paper, it was when standing in the street and viewing the proposed plan at the ground level that the alleged issues became apparent.
A slew of city officials from the police and street departments along with an engineer visited the proposed project site.
“After seeing a demonstration on traffic movement under the new alignment, it was agreed by all Main Street board members that the plan needed to be revised,” Conklin stated.
The streetscape goals include curb and gutter long the east side of Park Street between Ray and Water streets, wider sidewalks along the east side of Park Street and parking spaces that meet city standards.
“The board realizes this will reduce the number of parking spaces by two, but it accepts that tradeoff,” Conklin stated.
Larry Fox from the city’s chosen engineering firm C2AE offered several options for reducing potential conflict along Park Street after main street officials and some business owners expressed concern over the city’s original plan.
Fox discussed three different options to address concerns.
One option involved parallel parking on both sides of the street while maintaining the existing alignment with three lanes of traffic, one of which being a turn lane.
The first option offered the ability to widen the sidewalks up to 10 feet in places and 13-15 feet in other areas.
“This is the most pedestrian-friendly,” Fox said.
Two parking spaces would be lost with option one.
Option two would allow for the three lane configuration, 10-foot-wide sidewalks and the number of parking spaces would remain static. However, some cars would have to back up over the crosswalk area.
Cain said with this option a handicap designated parking space may be able to be put in the first parking space near Pat O’Brien & Associates to replace one which is currently near the Ace Hardware building near the alley.
Fox said he will have to check with regulations to be sure a handicap space could be put there.
Officials discussed the pros and cons to various widths of traffic lanes and sidewalks.
“If you can get by with an eight-foot sidewalk I would prefer to have a 13-foot lane here, if this were the configuration just to allow for not impeding on that left turn lane,” Fox said.
Option three was what Fox called a “maximizing parking” configuration.
“The difference that you see with this when compared to the others is that we are down to two lanes of traffic on the south side,” Fox said. “These sidewalks are shown at eight feet. It allows for a 19-foot parking space and then a 13-foot lane both sides.”
This third option gains a net of two parking spaces.
The biggest change, Fox said, is eliminating the designated left turn lane and having the potential that vehicles could back up if someone needs to turn left during a time of heavy traffic.
Boyne City Department of Public Works Director Andy Kovolski said he would like to see the turn lane maintained in order to prevent traffic backup and potential conflict.
Cain said there have been a number of public meetings on this issue and he specifically asked if there was interest in additional parking spaces.
“At those meetings there was no indication or pressure for additional parking spaces,” he said. “We’re trying to find that balance of what we do to maintain a successful downtown area.”
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer said he wants to maintain both a left turn lane and maximum sidewalk width.
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom said she watched traffic patterns at the intersection in question and feels a turn lane may not be necessary.
Fox said depending upon the option chosen, it could be a matter of simply changing the paint striping to alter whether there is a left turn lane.
Gaylord said it would be foolish to start out with a design that offers less potential parking before they try another design.
He added that the eight-foot sidewalks would be plenty wide,
Neidhamer said he would rather see the maximum sidewalk area maintained.
Grunch said safety is the number one issue and he would like to see option two used to ensure a left turn lane is maintained.