JVG_211206_PARKING

A pamphlet circulated by West Milwaukee Street business operators sits on the West Milwaukee Street bridge rail in downtown Janesville during the downtown’s Jolly Jingle lighted holiday parade. The business operators are protesting plans by the city of Janesville to remove about a third of the angled parking spots from the south side of West Milwaukee Street. City officials say the newly completed streetscape along West Milwaukee Street is too narrow for drivers to see around angle-parked cars as they move through intersections across the Westside downtown’s main thoroughfare.

JANESVILLE

Amid outcry from some property owners downtown, the city is pausing plans to reconfigure parking along West Milwaukee Street, a move officials say would improve safety along the newly rebuilt roadway.

Dozens of business operators are up in arms and urging the city to reconsider its plan to remove about 60 angled parking spots along the south side of West Milwaukee Street and use the space for parallel parking instead.

The business operators say the move would eliminate about 30% to 40% of street-side parking spots in a four-block span.

The reboot would have come during the holiday shopping season and just weeks after crews wrapped up an eight-month, multi-million-dollar rebuild that shut down traffic for months at a time.

City Public Works Director Paul Woodard said the city received resident complaints of reduced visibility when trying to cross certain intersections along West Milwaukee Street because of the angle-parked cars along the south side of the West Milwaukee Street corridor.

Woodard said the street now has wider terraces but that the street itself lost a few feet of width in in some spots, including at the intersections with Franklin and Jackson streets.

Woodard said between the street narrowing and the existing angled parking, the view at the cross streets is now curtailed to an extent that surveyors for the city say the street’s parking configuration no longer meets minimum line-of-sight safety standards.

“When you’re heading northbound and you’re on the south side of the intersection where the angled parking is, you look to the left and the right and the angled parking blocks your view of oncoming traffic,” Woodard said.

Woodard said the city’s administration sought to make the parking change to avoid crashes linked to narrowed lines of sight. He said the city decided Friday afternoon to hold off so businesses could have time to sound off. The plan was to begin removing the angled parking lines today.

Instead, the business operators want the city to discuss with them ways to slow traffic near the intersections that residents say they’re concerned about.

Downtown Janesville Inc., a business group with members along West Milwaukee Street, was crying foul over the weekend, saying the city chose to notify dozens of businesses of a major change in parking via a single press release.

“The press release went out without warning on Thursday,” the group wrote on Facebook, just a few days before the city planned to send crews out to scrub off the angled parking stripes and replace them with parallel parking markings.

Some Downtown Janesville Inc., representatives, along with officials from Janesville’s Downtown Business Improvement District and the public-private riverfront revitalization group ARISEnow seek to convince the city to focus on slowing down traffic instead of reconfiguring parking.

Some business operators used Janesville’s Jolly Jingle holiday festival as a forum to protest the city’s parking reconfiguration plan. Some handed out fliers urging residents to call and write to city officials in opposition of the change.

“We’d like to slow this down and try and come up with a much better solution than taking much needed parking from our businesses that have struggled for years through construction,” Downtown Janesville Inc. wrote in its Facebook post.

The state of Wisconsin two years ago approved local plans to overhaul and rebuild West Milwaukee Street as a more pedestrian-friendly retail thoroughfare. Among changes the new streetscape ushered in are raised intersections designed to slow traffic.

The raised intersections replace stoplights that once controlled traffic traveling down West Milwaukee Street.

Despite those changes, the state years ago also signed off on a parking configuration that maintained angled parking along the four-block section of West Milwaukee Street. Woodard said it appears the street has been narrowed too much in spots to maintain angled parking.

Downtown commercial property owner Todd Kimball said one of his properties, the Studio 107 building 100 block of West Milwaukee Street, has 12 salon tenants who rely on the nearby parking for customers who have hair and beauty appointments.

He said changing to parallel spots would reduce the total number of spots from on the south side of Milwaukee Street and the other three blocks by about half.

Woodard said the most recent city parking surveys show the western four blocks of West Milwaukee Street tend to have about 40% of the angled parking spots occupied at any given time. On Friday afternoon, a Gazette reporter counted 16 of 61 angled spots on the spur were occupied, about 26%.

Kimball said he is among those who are pressing the city to scrap the idea of converting parking. He said he would like the city to give motorists more visual cues to slow down.

He thinks if vehicles slowed from “30 miles per hour down to 20 or even 15 miles an hour,” it would increase safety more than a parking reboot.

Kimball pointed out that he has not seen speed-limit signs posted along the newly completed stretch of West Milwaukee Street. He said the city at the very least should place speed-limit signs near the street’s intersections.

“People now don’t have any idea what speed they’re supposed to go because you did a brand-new street and somehow you have no speed limit signs anywhere?” Kimball said. “Just tabletops, raised intersections without four-way stops. There’s not really anything placed anywhere now that tells drivers they need to slow down.”

This article has been amended from a previous version to reflect the correct location of salon  property Studio 107.

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