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Our view More parking should head up 'wish list' for 2001 assembly

September 29, 2000

Our view More parking should head up 'wish list' for 2001 assembly



Last week, Hagerstown and Washington County governments took a look into the future, financially speaking, that is. As the time remaining before the 2001 General Assembly session grows short, elected officials must soon decide what's going to be at the top of their "wish list" for state funding.

The possible future of downtown Hagerstown was presented to the city's planning commission last Wednesday, and the possibilities include a $4.4 million parking and open space plan for the University Systems of Maryland campus planned for downtown, a $46 million Civil War museum, a $10.4 million structure for the Arts & Entertainment District and a new $12 million office building, both on South Potomac Street. The possibility of building a new $6 million parking deck was also mentioned.

The county's list is not as expensive, but involves new powers, such as the right to impose a county transfer tax and to maintain a so-called "rainy day fund" for hard economic times or emergencies. But the county would like state cash for the extension of the Regional Airport runway and the construction of underpasses below it, for U.S. 11 traffic.

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In our view, the key to development downtown is making sure the UM campus is easily accessible and that those who want to rehabilitate old buildings - the Schindel-Rohrer building at 28 S. Potomac St. is just the latest site for planned renovations - have plenty of parking.

Much is made of the fact that the existing parking deck loses money each year, but like the parks and other recreation areas, they're amenities that draw other revenue-producing activities. If bringing in 200-plus jobs to downtown, as one developer proposes, requires parking, then somebody's got to provide it.

It might be done in partnership with developers or even with the university system, but somehow, it needs to be done. For students and those who work here, parking has to be an easy task, not a motorized game of hide-and-seek. Personal vehicles may change, becoming more fuel-efficient, but we do not see their phase-out anytime soon. It's the way people travel, and if elected officials want them to travel here, we must accommodate them.

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