Downtown parking addition a likely ‘culture shock’

Angled parking spaces, which are growing in popularity in urban areas, will be placed on the east side of North Division Street as part of street renovations.

The intersection at Main and Division streets is undergoing significant changes that will alter the parking pattern and also make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

In between two curb bump-outs on the east side of North Division Street – one near the intersection and another closer to Route 50 – there will be 12 angled, back-in parking spaces, said Rick Baldwin, an engineer for the city.

“It’s going to be a culture shock for some people,” he said.

The back-in spaces are safer when vehicles pull out because drivers have a clearer vision of the street, as well as any nearby pedestrians or bicycles.

Six more spaces parallel to the curb will be across the street.

The large bump-out on the northeast corner of the intersection still leaves enough room for two 11-foot-wide traffic lanes – enough for emergency vehicles and tractor-trailers to negotiate turns there, Baldwin said.

The contractor for the project has been working to replace underground utilities in the intersection. Part of that work extended part of the way into the Downtown Plaza.

Baldwin said he expects to have base paving in place so the intersection and the Plaza can reopen by Thanksgiving.

Work in the block of North Division Street between Route 50 and East Main Street by the Government Office Building is expected to wrap up by the end of the year, he said.

“When it reopens, it will be more pedestrian-friendly,” Baldwin said.

A separate contractor was hired to work on the block of South Division Street by the One Plaza East building was not included in the original Main Street plan to tie it into a new Town Square.

City officials also have opted to remove the traffic signal at the intersection.

The work is all part of the ongoing Main Street revitalization project that started in 2016. It will next shift to the Downtown Plaza sometime after the new year, starting at Mill Street and working eastward.

The Plaza — the section of West Main Street between Mill and Division streets — was converted to a pedestrian-only area in 1968, but it has since been reopened to one-way traffic and limited parking.

The work there next year will replace existing landscaping and sidewalks to match the rest of Main Street. The city also plans to reverse the one-way traffic direction so that vehicles will enter from Mill Street rather than exit there.

City Council members in June 2016 approved a $4.6 million contract and broke ground in September on the project that includes the replacement of 100-year-old water and sewer mains, as well as high-speed internet lines.

The project has had a few holdups along the way, including a months-long shutdown in the block between Route 13 and Poplar Hill Avenue when soil contamination from old underground fuel tanks was detected.

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