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Parking, speed concerns persist on Grow

It’s ironic that a street with a name like Grow Avenue has remained static, despite being surrounded by change.

In recent years, residents have searched in vain for ways to alleviate mounting traffic concerns like speeding, noise, inadequate parking and unsafe pedestrian thoroughfares. Reviews were mixed this week for a plan that calls for new multi-use paths and improved drainage.

The omission of traffic calming measures and parking improvements drew the ire of most.

“There were mixed emotions, but we were anticipating that,” said project manager Chris Munter. “Any time citizens get together for a discussion they’re going to have different outlooks on things.”

The most positively received aspect of the project were sidewalks, of which more than half will be meandering, to give the project a “rural feel.”

As for the missing pieces, Munter said he understood the frustration, but said limitations imposed on the design team prevented the inclusion of traffic calming measures. One problem is money; the city received a $460,000 grant to pay for the project, but many of the features residents want would be too expensive.

Also, because City Council specified that the money be spent on non-motorized improvements, there wasn’t much they could do to address some of the other problems.

Dee DuMont, who has a home-based business on Grow Avenue, expressed frustration over the parking situation. She said the lack of restricted parking has hurt her business and made the street more dangerous.

“All the high school kids park along Grow, and it blocks up the street,” she said. DuMont said she recently saw a water meter reader’s truck parked in the middle of the street.

“He didn’t have a choice because there was nowhere to park,” she said. “But it’s dangerous for traffic and pedestrians trying to get by, not to mention the fact that my clients have no place to park. The city is spending all this money to put in new sidewalks when all it would take was $3,000 worth of no parking signs.”

Another woman said she regularly commuted down the street on her bicycle and was angered by repeated encounters with unsafe drivers.

“People go way too fast along there,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “And all the cars parked along the street makes it even more dangerous.”

City engineer Bob Earl said he was studying the parking problem, but it might take some time to sort out. One of his concerns is that “no parking” signs would simply displace the problem and cause the same issues elsewhere.

“No matter how we approach it, folks will seek out parking near the high school,” Earl said.

The issue of speeding was equally tenuous, but non-motorized constraints have limited the city’s options.

Earl said it was possible that traffic calming measures could be addressed separately by council.

“If this is a serious long-term concern for people, which clearly it is, we wouldn’t stand in the way of a solution,” Earl said.

But some feel the issue is more complicated. Grow Avenue resident Barry Griffin believes it’s in the economic interests of the city to promote new routes into the downtown core.

“Despite what they say, business interests command more attention than the average citizen,” he said.

Like many others, Griffin would prefer a speed limit reduction to traffic calming measures. But Earl said a change in the speed limit wasn’t likely.

“People observe a defacto speed limit, regardless of the posted speed,” he said. “When people are out walking the dog, they’re the first to complain that drivers are going to fast. Then when they’re late for the ferry they get in the car and drive 40 in a 25. We all need to learn to slow down.”

The design team will meet and review the public comments before altering plans. Then the permitting process would begin, with construction scheduled to start next spring.

In the meantime, Earl said he was happy to get some feedback.

“There’s was a wide variety of comment, which is what you’d expect at a meeting like this,” he said. “A lot of people pay attention to the piece of street outside their front yard, but they don’t see the whole picture. That’s our job, and we’re going to try and accommodate people as best we can.”

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