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Martinsburg studying parking issues

July 26, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Six years after a transportation consultant presented strategies to improve parking in downtown Martinsburg, another firm is revisiting the topic and building on it -- on paper.

Proffitt & Associates Architects of Frederick, Md., is expected to provide civil engineering, architectural design and parking consulting work as part of a $79,200 parking garage study.

"The consultant is still doing site evaluations as well as getting the financial information to also put together an estimate per site," City Manager Mark Baldwin said last week. "I'm hoping between now and the end of the year we'll have this study completed."

Baldwin confirmed that the Martinsburg City Council had not made a firm commitment to building a parking garage, which he said some have suggested would stimulate more economic growth. The work being done will give city officials an idea what a garage could look like, its size, how it would be operated and the best location in terms of civil engineering, he said.

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The 2002 parking study did not conclude that Martinsburg had a parking problem, but did promote a few measures to promote and make better use of what parking areas already are available.

Some of the ideas incorporated into the city's 2004 Downtown Plan were the creation of a promotional parking map, development of a downtown way-finding and parking sign system, shared use of parking lots and improve enforcement of meters.

The 2004 plan noted that downtown Martinsburg had 2,145 spaces available at that time. An occupancy survey then concluded that less than 60 percent of on-street spaces were occupied during peak hours.

The city's 2006 comprehensive plan included objectives to convert three private parking areas behind City Hall into public lots, and noted potential parking decks at the East Burke Street parking lot in the 100 block of West King Street, among other changes.

The 2006 plan also suggested consideration of a parking facility along East Race Street that would provide 200 spaces.

In addition to the garage study, Baldwin said the city also is moving forward with a plan to develop and install a way-finding and gateway sign system.

While long-term changes are being explored, Baldwin said the city council agreed this month to make 42 parking spaces in the city's East Burke Street lot available on a permit basis through the "green top" meter program.

The cost for a permit in the East Burke Street parking lot is expected to be increased from $12 to $20 when the new meters are in place.

"Hopefully, (this) will open up the on-street parking along Queen Street," Baldwin said. Even with the new meters, other motorists still could park in the spaces, he said.

The city council on Tuesday is expected to consider two recommendations by the city's Parking Authority Committee.

Last week, the committee unanimously approved the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau's request to purchase blocks of parking hours in the form of hang tags that would be given out to tourists. Each tag would provide a visitor with two hours of free parking.

"It's just a way to foster a welcoming feel to our downtown area," said Andrea Ball, executive director of the bureau.

The committee also recommended that city leaders approve installation of two 30-minute meters in front of the Visitors Center at 115 N. Queen St., which Ball said would encourage easy and open access.

The 30-minute time limit on the meters would replace a two-hour span.

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