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Parking structure questioned

January 21, 2002

Parking structure questioned



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Making sure there is adequate parking downtown has been an ongoing discussion for years, and one remedy that has been considered by Martinsburg City Council members is construction of a parking building.

But it appears that idea may be getting less attention.

Brad Edwards of Edwards Neff Inc., an Atlanta firm that was hired to do a parking study for downtown, told council members last week that building a parking garage can be costly, possibly as much as $2 million or more, said city council member Roger Lewis.

Edwards said he thinks the city will have enough parking for future needs if it can get long-term parking motorists out of the downtown area and reserve those spots for short-term parking.

Lewis said he thinks there are plenty of parking changes the council can make without considering a parking garage, although that could be part of discussions for long-term solutions, he said.

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Council member Glenville Twigg said the council was prepared to seriously consider a parking garage, although that appears to be less of an issue now.

"My guess is because it's so expensive, we probably won't go that direction now," said Twigg.

Mayor George Karos said a parking building appears to be a "funding impossibility."

Lewis said it is too early to tell which parts of the lengthy parking study put together by Edwards Neff may appeal to council members.

Whatever plan the council comes up with, Karos said he would like to see one that takes into account possible new traffic patterns in the city.

Karos said the state Division of Highways is looking at ways of rerouting traffic north through Martinsburg to alleviate traffic congestion that occurs daily on North Queen Street.

The city asked Edwards Neff to do the study so the city would be prepared to handle an expected influx of traffic caused by several major projects planned around the shopping district.

Those projects include the renovation of the B&O Roundhouse, the renovation of the Gateway Hotel, the relocation of the Boarman Arts Center into a former federal facility on King Street and the start-up of Shepherd College's Community and Technical College.

Edwards told council members last week that availability of parking downtown is threatened by motorists who violate the two-hour time limit on parking meters downtown.

Many parking meters downtown have a two-hour time limit, but some motorists feed the meters with money all day to have a parking spot, Edwards said.

Edwards told council members the city needs to focus on getting people who park for long periods of time out of the downtown area and reserve that area for short-term parking.

Edwards said there are a number of quick ways to keep short-term parking open to visitors downtown such as creating free all-day parking on parts of Burke, Martin, King, John and Stephen streets that are away from the downtown shopping area. That will give people who park long-term downtown a free place to park and will open up short-term parking, Edwards said.

Edwards also suggested the city explore entering into agreements with organizations like churches to open their parking lots for long-term parking during the week and consider raising the hourly rate on parking meters downtown from 25 cents to 50 cents.

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