Tuesday, December 9, 2008

In case you missed it: parking

Newburyport using federal funds for study on garage
By Gillian Swart
Globe Correspondent / October 12, 2008

Newburyport is using a $1,672,000 federal earmark from 2005 to plan for a paid parking garage in a city that has seen only free municipal parking for 40 years.

The Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority on Sept. 24 sent out on behalf of the city requests for proposals for preliminary engineering and site selection study for a downtown parking facility. The sites to be studied are surface parking lots at Prince Place and on Green Street, said city planning director Nancy Colbert.

Mayor John Moak in January told Chamber of Commerce members to expect paid parking, or at least a plan, this year.

The requests were sent out a week after the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority unveiled the latest plans to turn its two parking lots on the central waterfront into mostly park land.

Without 250 to 300 spaces on the waterfront, the mayor has said, the city will have a parking problem. In both plans presented at a public hearing Sept. 17, parking spaces would be reduced to 140 or fewer. Without the waterfront lots, the city has 327 off-street public parking spots.

"It's a considerable decrease in parking," Moak said. "We have to figure out what we have to do to replace parking they are moving off the central waterfront, if they can."

The redevelopment authority has acknowledged that it does not have the funds to pay for the project. Both the park and the potential parking garage are years down the road.

"This is a very preliminary step in a long journey," said transit authority administrator Joseph Costanzo.

The transit authority takes on these projects on behalf of cities and towns because it is a conduit to federal and state funding. "That's part of our role," he added.

The authority is working with Haverhill on site selection for a multi-level facility. Under such arrangements, the community signs a memorandum of understanding with the agency.

A portion of the $1,672,000 is in the transit authority's hands to cover fees for the consultant, Costanzo said. Congress will in 2009 be authorizing transportation funds for the next six years, and the $1,672,000 will cover the study and maybe up to final design of the project, if it moves forward, he added.

Moak hopes this will be the last of 12 parking and garage studies for the city, nine of which have been done since 1996, according to the RFP.

"There is a need for paid parking. We're trying to figure out the best way to do it," he said.
The RFP calls for, among other things, a review of the last nine reports, a land survey of the two targeted parcels, preliminary assessments, and a traffic survey relating to an intermodal parking facility, which is an interface between different transportation systems.

While the authority's plans are a component in planning the city's future parking needs, Colbert echoed the scope-of-work statement in the RFP that identifies a need for a "strong link" between the MBTA commuter rail station, the National Scenic Byway that may traverse the city, and integration of the first phase of the Clipper City Rail Trail, which is under construction.

"We're trying to incorporate as many types of transit as possible, as make sense with this facility," Colbert said.

Costanzo said that the preliminary study will also look at local transit proposals, such as adding a couple of bus routes in the city. "There's a whole lot of little things like that that can fit in the mix."

The central waterfront was cleared in 1968 as part of urban renewal and the lots were opened for public parking in the 1980s. Between the two NRA lots is Market Landing Park, which is operated by the Waterfront Trust. Proponents of an open waterfront, including the majority of residents who responded to surveys, support a park over parking lots.

"The lack of parking management is stifling us," said City Council president James Shanley, who was recently appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to the redevelopment authority.

Shanley supports alternative solutions to a garage that is not fully funded, citing empty bank parking lots that perhaps could be used during off hours or a plan where revenue from parking meters in an area is used to support infrastructure in that area.

Both the redevelopment authority and New England Development, the two major stakeholders on the waterfront, have called for a parking and traffic plan from the city.

The $1,672,000 earmark was part of the highway and mass transit bill titled the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, according to a July 2005 press release from US Representative John F. Tierney. Beverly and Salem received the same amount for similar parking garage projects


Anonymous said...

Hi Gillian

If anyone is interested, there is some good reading on this site: www.nelsonnygaard.com

James Shanley

Gillian Swart said...

Thanks, James.