Study looks at downtown parking issues

BUCKHANNON – A recent informal parking analysis of the downtown area showed several opportunities to increase space availability.

The examination was commissioned by the community organization Create Buckhannon and was completed by member James Farrell, who has conducted similar surveys in the past.

Create member C.J. Rylands said the study is simply an informational tool. The organization wants to involve government officials and citizens in an ongoing conversation about how to continue to improve parking in Buckhannon.

Farrell’s study showed that North Kanawha Street, Willard Way and Spring Street could be considered a single project for parking reconfiguration. Generally, the existing parking plan in these areas appears to support “ghost” businesses that closed in the previous century and “left behind a colorful hodgepodge of non-standard markings, non-conforming signs and intended use.”

According to the study, North Kanawha Street stands out as being the only one of the three streets that has parking on only one side. And it may be the wrong side, Farrell said.

Moving parking to the other side of the street could create room for up to three additional spots and could improve traffic flow, according to the study.

Additionally, there is a loading zone marked with a red curb close to Main Street on the east side of North Kanawha.

“With the addition of the no-parking area starting at the intersection, this is a 70-foot loss of parking area. There is no active business at that location that requires loading or unloading of a 65-foot tractor-trailer,” Farrell said.

The loading zone could be converted into metered spots and the rest could be reserved for temporary parking.

It would also be possible to make the street a one-way southbound street. Not only would this widen the lane, reduce traffic on Main Street and create extra parking, it also would eliminate some conflicting turns and the improper use of Senior Way, according to the study. Merchants would probably prefer the street be made into a one-way northbound street, which would lose the advantage of eliminating conflicting turns but would still improve parking.

The city could retain the existing meters while adding free parking on the opposite side. This would allow for a 12-foot lane, Farrell said.

“The average person would probably park in a two-hour free spot, while 10-hour meters can be an option for longer-term parking on the other side,” he said. “This would create sufficient open spots for the mail and other fast-drop type deliveries.”

The Moose Lodge has free off-street parking but many members pay to park in front of the door rather than walk from the private lot.

“While this is totally legal, it removes available spots from the merchants who do not have private parking. This also suggests the possibility of merchants leasing spots in front of their business, similar to the Elkins system,” Farrell said.

“For the existing small storefront businesses that are not associated with a private lot on North Kanawha, a more fair parking policy comparable to Main Street must be considered, for we have created a two-tier system with inconsistencies. The side streets can be a continuation of the charm of 100-year-old architecture; it should not be dead, dark and dingy,” he added.

Farrell said Willard way is an underused gem in the rough of Buckhannon parking. The bulk of the heavy businesses along the road are gone, leaving a 38-foot-wide road with 400 feet of unused, unposted parking on both sides.

“This is where I would park my recreational vehicle 20 years ago to access downtown shops, and take a chance on not having violated any rules,” Farrell said. “If there is no use restriction, I would recommend, since this area is already underused, that specialized parking such as RVs, buses and campers, prohibiting overnight parking, would not interfere with any current use.”

Though Willard Way is somewhat out of the way and not well-lighted, any expanded parking in this area can only look good for potential new growth, Farrell said.

Unlike the other two roads in the report, Spring Street does support a small amount of heavy commercial traffic that includes 53-foot trailers going to Southern States. It is only 4-5 feet wider than North Kanawha and has metered parking on both sides of the street.

If parking was removed from one side of the street, most businesses would still have access to metered or free off-street parking. An improvement of a two-way lane on Spring Street would support the change to a one-way street on north Kanawha Street, according to the study.

Farrell said there is another loading zone near the Salvation Army, which is a store that has a private lot.

“This is probably left over from when it was a supermarket for the unloading of groceries from tractor-trailers,” he said.