Business owners speak out against parallel parking

Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas took to the streets on Saturday morning, March 21, and he took City Councilmembers Jeff Rasmussen and Jim Kamp and the Monroe Monitor & Valley News along for the ride.

His objective was to tour the downtown Monroe area and chat with business owners about the upcoming Main Street Plaza project and solicit input on matters including parallel versus angle parking, wider sidewalks and parking time limits. He also notified business owners and their customers of the upcoming downtown parking public hearing, which will be held at 7 p.m. at Monroe City Hall (806 W. Main St.) on Tuesday, March 31.

Since October of last year, Thomas has spent at least one Saturday each month touring the downtown area, typically with Monroe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Una Wirkebau-Hartt, getting to know the business owners. This time, he invited Rasmussen and Kamp to join him so that they could obtain feedback from the business owners firsthand.-á

Monroe High School senior Jacob Walker accompanied the trio on Saturday's tour. Walker is working on his culminating challenge project, which examines what it's like to be an elected official.

Wider sidewalks

Before walking through downtown Monroe, the group traveled to nearby Duvall, to see a streetscape that features wider sidewalks and parallel parking. The sidewalks in Duvall measured 12 feet wide or wider, giving businesses room to incorporate outdoor dining areas or outdoor merchandise displays. -á

Upon returning to Monroe, they began their downtown tour at the Sky River Bakery.-á

Sky River Bakery Owner Andrew Abt is vehemently opposed to parallel parking. He started a petition on Saturday morning at approximately 9 a.m., and by 11 a.m., had nearly 50 signatures from customers opposed to the idea of parallel parking. He voiced his concerns to Thomas, Rasmussen and Kamp.

"Every parking space you take away from us is dollars out of our pockets,GÇ¥ Abt said. "This is our livelihood.GÇ¥

Abt has been in business in downtown Monroe since 1987, and has witnessed numerous different parking strategies and scenarios in that 28-year timeframe. Recently, Abt has advocated that Main Street provide convenient, plentiful parking that is customer-oriented and easily accessible. -á

He challenged Thomas, Rasmussen and Kamp to count the number of flourishing businesses currently operating in the downtown area.-á

"I don't think you're going to find a lot of thriving businesses,GÇ¥ Abt said. "We're all struggling.GÇ¥

In addition to concerns about parallel parking, Abt is worried that the proposed pedestrian bulb-outs will negatively impact traffic flow, causing increased congestion around Main and Lewis streets. The pedestrian bulb-outs are a newer aspect of the Main Street Plaza project, which has evolved since it was initially proposed last December.-á

New design aspects

Currently, the city is planning on phasing the project. Phase one will involve curb removal and the installation of pervious concrete along East Main Street from Ferry to Lewis. The sidewalks, which will be eliminated so that the pedestrian area is flush with the street, will be constructed out of pervious concrete, and the parking area will be built out of a gray-colored material called PaveDrain.-á

Each corner will feature a widened pedestrian area, known as a bulb-out, which will shorten the length of the crosswalks and allow the city to incorporate bike racks or other decorative elements in the pedestrian area. A combination of lighted and non-lighted bollards will be used along the bulb-out areas to delineate the walkway and distinguish it from the road.-á

Abt's concern over the bulb-outs was related to westbound Main Street traffic attempting to turn south onto Lewis, or eastbound Main Street traffic attempting to travel north. He pointed out that with no left-turn arrows at the intersection, a vehicle turning left could completely disrupt the flow of traffic, causing significant delays. Cars would no longer be able to proceed around them on the right, due to the size of the bulb-outs.

"One person turning left, because of the bulb-out, controls the rest of the traffic,GÇ¥ Abt said. "Even if they're turning right, they can't turn because the bulb-out is in the way.GÇ¥

Customers travel from all around the region to buy baked goods from the Sky River Bakery; Abt estimated that his bakery brings roughly 5,000 people per month into Monroe. He is concerned that congestion in the downtown area could have a negative impact on his business.-á -á -á

Thomas is going to work with city staff to determine if the timing on the stoplight at Lewis and Main can be altered to accommodate left-turning traffic in either direction.

Overall, many business owners, including Camp 1923 owner Colleen Gallagher, My L.A. Fashion owner Cami Hunt and Monroe Homebrewing Supplies owner Don Worthen were opposed to the loss of parking spaces that would come with a transition to parallel parking.

Phase one of the project is set to begin on April 20 and is expected to be completed by June 30. Phase two of the project, which would duplicate phase one along the portion of West Main Street from Lewis to Blakeley streets, could begin on July 1, with a completion date of Aug. 21.-á -á

The city is still considering two different design options. The first option keeps the angled parking, features 10-foot sidewalks and maintains the current number of parking stalls. The second option converts the parking to parallel parking, which results in 20-foot sidewalks and 20 fewer parking stalls.

The Monroe City Council will hear public testimony on all matters related to parking in the downtown area during the public hearing on March 31. It welcomes comments regarding parallel parking, angle parking and maximum time limits. -á


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