Fender-Bender Plan?

Traffic committee questions parking change on Main

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A consultant’s plan to turn Main Street into a tourist draw will instead cause a rash of fender-benders, Payson’s Surface Transportation Advisory Committee has concluded.

But the belated realization could complicate efforts to get state and federal funding to fix the long-suffering, historic retail district, concluded Payson Public Works Director LaRon Garrett, during a discussion at last week’s STAC meeting.

The town has struggled for years to turn the straggle of sometimes historic buildings into the center of a tourist district.

After years of delay, the town hired a consultant to propose a master plan for the area. The consultant’s report suggested the town concentrate on short stretches of the street to create areas that would lure people out of their cars. The consultant said the wide street encourages people to drive quickly through without stopping to stroll.

In order to increase parking, effectively narrow the street, slow traffic and create a concentration of business, the consultant suggested angled parking.

However, STAC last week belatedly noticed that recommendation — and objected.

The revelation came in the midst of a discussion about progress on a $300,000 federal grant that requires a $134,000 town match.

The town can’t draw on the approved $300,000 grant because it’s having trouble coming up with matching funds. “We’re getting close to the point where we would have to turn that money back in,” said Garrett.

STAC member Jack Jasper said “It’s not really an historic place. I think it was wrong to do it in the first place.”

Given the critical needs for street improvements put on hold as a result of the town’s budget crisis, Johns objected to spending money on Main Street.

Moreover, STAC Chairman Tom Loeffler objected to the consultant’s suggestion that the town convert stretches of parallel parking to angled parking — which would require drivers to back out into traffic lanes. The consultant’s recommendation was included in the town’s grant application.

“My concern is more of a safety concern,” said Loeffler. He predicted that fender-bender accidents would increase with angled parking. Instead, he said the town should convert a vacant lot into a parking lot.

However, Garrett noted that might require the town to apply all over again for the grant it already received.

“We’re trying to bring people down to Main Street, but if you start having crashes — they won’t come,” objected Loeffler.

“If you want to go back to square one, it means another year of meetings,” said Garrett.

Ultimately, the committee agreed to simply draft a letter to the town council expressing its concerns.

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