Friday, April 20, 2007

Parking woes only temporary

Ketchum could gain 57 parking spaces from downtown projects

Express Staff Writer

When construction on Fourth Street is completed?and some parking there taken away?Ketchum will actually end up with a net gain in parking stalls downtown.

With construction of the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor fully underway concerns are trickling into Ketchum's streets about reduced availability of parking.

For the time being, parking is sparse, but the end result of these downtown enhancement activities should actually be more parking spaces throughout the downtown core.

"There is still some reluctance, though I think a minority in town," said Ketchum Councilman Ron Parsons. "They think the world's coming to an end with this Fourth Street (reduction) in parking. We'll probably end up with a net gain in parking down the road."

There are 68 parking stalls on Fourth Street, but there are also 68 parking spaces on Sun Valley Road, where year-round parking could soon be instated when the bike path is moved to Fourth Street. Council members have indicated that could happen as early as this summer. However, it will require a vote by the full City Council.

But not everyone thinks so. Some say safety concerns related to the bike path should take precedence over garnering more parking spaces.

"I don't think we're ready to move the bike path," said Planning Director Harold Moniz. "Obviously the downtown master plan calls for moving the bike path to Fourth Street, but I would imagine moving it when it's substantially complete. It should be moved when it's safe to move it."

Community Development Corporation Executive Director Tom Hudson has a more optimistic opinion.

"We're in a period of transition," he said. "All of us need to be on the team. As construction moves forward, if we can move the bikes over and make it safer and more positive for biking, then we should do that."

Sun Valley Road, however, is not the only place where increased parking is anticipated. An additional eight stalls are expected on Walnut Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets from a reconfiguration. When Leadville Avenue is made one-way between Sun Valley Road and Sixth Street, an additional 31 stalls will be established. With making Sixth Street one-way between Main Street and East Avenue, another 18 stalls will appear.

The potential net increase stands at 39, and that is if all 68 parking stalls on Fourth Street are eradicated, which they will not be, Hudson said.

"I guess we've all got the e-mails and the phone calls," Parsons said. "I just wanted to let people know that we have thought about the parking situation. We're not just willy-nilly running down Fourth Street eliminating the parking.

"I think this thing has a half-life. I think every week there will be half the people who are irate as there were the last week."

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