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Main Street needs handicapped spots

By Staff | Jan 12, 2014

An item for discussion during a work session brought local business owners to the Blue Earth City Council meeting last Monday.

The council has been discussing the upcoming road improvements which are slated to take place in 2015.

However, with those improvements come with what some main street business owners see as a major setback.

According to city engineer Wes Brown, the project requires for the parking to be changed from angle to parallel, in order to prevent cars leaving their stalls from interrupting the flow of traffic.

This proposed change to parallel parking would cause a loss of at least 10 parking stalls per block in the two-block stretch of Main Street.

“We are crunched for parking as it is,” Michele Hard of Michele’s Sewing and Vacuum tells the council members. “We’re concerned, if we lose even five more spaces it’s going to be a major difference.”

Brown went on to explain that a traffic count was done to determine the flow of traffic in the area that will be worked on in 2015.

After the count was complete the area is assigned an Average Daily Traffic or ADT. That area was placed in the category of more than 3600 ADT.

“That categorization requires us to have more width to the road,” Brown explains.

The one way they have looked to accomplish that was to switch to parallel parking.

“Is there a way to conduct another ADT to see if we still fall into that category?” Hard suggested. “If it was completed long enough ago, we may not have as much traffic.”

City Administrator Kathy Bailey said it was a possibility and suggested another option of reducing the size of the sidewalks to one panel.

“But, that would affect business owners too,” Bailey adds.

Other business owners expressed their concerns as well.

“Anything we do to discourage downtown retail is not a good thing,” Jack Heinitz says. “If you would survey other downtown business owners you would find they probably agree losing parking would discourage downtown retail.”

Mayor Rick Scholtes acknowledged their concerns and presented the council and public with two options.

“One option is one-hour parking, the other is for you to talk to your county commissioners,” Scholtes adds.

The work session stayed on the topic of the 2015 Main Street road improvements, but shifted to the concern of handicap parking.

Councilman John Huisman shared with the rest of the council that he was approached by a citizen about the lack of handicap parking for Main Street businesses.

Brown explains that since this is a County and State Aid project, so there wasn’t a lot of say in it for the city. However, he had suggestions of how to incorporate some handicap accessibility.

“The best option would be to stay with the parallel parking and add a bump into the curb, allowing room for handicap drivers or passengers to get out of their car and up a ramp onto the sidewalk,” Brown explains.

But, with the addition of handicap spaces, which the council would like two per block, it would decrease customer parking as well.

However, since it was a work session the council didn’t make any decisions and agreed to bring the discussion up again next month.