City Council passes changes for West Main Street bridge parking

Carley Hull

Kent City Council passed a motion Wednesday, Oct. 1, that will create parallel parking on the West Main Street bridge and explores the possibility of meter parking for the future.

Councilman Garret Ferrara proposed the motion for parallel parking after Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer’s motion to keep parking as is and explore paid parking for the future was shot down. The council passed the motion to continue to allow parking for downtown businesses and access to the Heritage Park under the bridge.

Council members, Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala and administration discussed the future of the bridge after City Engineer Jim Bowling gave recommendations based on research and studies on the bridge.

“I know any day now, (the bridge) should be seeing its conclusion,” City Manager Dave Ruller said as the discussion opened.

Bowling discussed traffic and congestion data as well as parking utilization numbers on the bridge. From the Kent Police Department reports, Bowling said there was only one crash in three and a half years that involved parking on the bridge, and that was around 3 a.m.

Bowling said traffic analysis showed that timing and phasing at the nearby signal was not optimized at all and he ran more analyses to see how to reduce that delay for those traveling westbound to northbound.

From, October 2012 to October 2013, parking on the bridge was counted with additional spots on the northside during peak hours from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Bowling said. The study found that about eight of the sixteen spots were utilized during these peak hours, even before and after the PARTA parking deck opened and charged for parking.

“What we basically came up with was that there was no significant impact to the utilization of that parking area based on the deck opening or starting to charge,” Bowling said.

Other major points of discussion included beatification of the bridge, bike lanes, parallel parking and parking meters.

Beautification of the bridge was a major point of discussion brought by Councilwoman Melissa Long.

“If you deem it necessary to have parking on the bridge, then I think we ought to aesthetically look at making it lovely,” Long said.

Shaffer was concerned about bicycle use and asked how bikes would fit on the bridge. Bowling said there would be no space for a bike lane to be safe on the bridge.

“We did look at the potential if there wasn’t parking to add some kind of a bike lane,” Bowling said. “The problem is it’s not connected. It’s only in this small stretch of 300 feet because once you go one block west, there isn’t room for a bike lane or a bike facility, so establishing an actual signed striped lane for 200 feet would actually be more dangerous as cars and bikes weave out of that lane.”

The aesthetics and safety of the cement islands were also brought into question. Bowling said the cement islands will be removed and replaced with striped zones. Bowling also said that functioning signals are more of an issue than parking and that parallel parking will not make a significant difference to traffic flow.

Parallel parking on the bridge would add about two to three spaces that diagonal parking would not provide, Bowling said. Councilman Michael DeLeone said the Parks Department would need the additional parking for residents to access a nearby trail.

The bridge will still be undergoing some beautification, Bowling said. The city will add banners and lights on the bridge to make it more of a gateway feature to the city.

Contact Carley Hull at [email protected].