City seeks DOT design exception
By Angie Landsverk
The city of Waupaca is requesting a design exception to maintain most of the angle parking on Main Street when the street is reconstructed.
That request is being submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, because the city qualified for federal funding of $1.4 million for the project.
The funding is through the Surface Transportation Urban Program (STP), which the DOT manages.
Such a request is necessary because the DOT has a predisposition toward parallel parking.
However, the DOT allows municipalities to seek exceptions to that design concept.
A hybrid design is being recommended for downtown.
It keeps front-in angle parking on Main Street, with the exception of the east side of the street, from Badger to Union streets.
Parallel parking is being recommended for that side of the block.
Brennan Kane, the city’s development director, provided an update on the project during the Nov. 15 common council meeting.
He told the council it is difficult to maintain angle parking with STP funding and has not been done before.
“We’re trying to maintain as much as we can,” Kane said.
In the city’s application, it will focus on the economic concerns of downtown business owners, as well as the older population in the area, he said.
Ald. Scott Purchatzke asked if the city will lose the $1.4 million STP funding if the DOT does not like the angle parking concept.
If the DOT does not allow the city to maintain the current angle parking, the city will resubmit a design exception with the concept of maintaining angle parking but using back-in angle parking instead, Kane said.
A pilot back-in angle parking project began about 3 1/2 months ago on one side of Union Street, between Main and Jefferson streets.
Director of Public Works Justin Berrens told the council an online survey shows back-in angle parking is preferred over parallel and front-in angle parking is preferred over back-in angle parking.
He said the most popular benefit of back-in angle parking is “the ability to see when leaving the stall.”
The biggest dislike of those who participated in the online survey is “having to back up,” and he said 35 percent of the respondents do not see a safety benefit.
Most of those who responded said they would not like to see back-in angle parking used anywhere else in the city.
Berrens also noted in his memo to Mayor Brian Smith and the council that about one-third of those who responded to the survey had not tried the back-in parking.
Berrens said some days, that side of the block is full and everyone is backed in perfectly into the spots.
Other days, that is not the case, with people continuing to do front-in angle parking in spite of the signs.
As a result, a double yellow line is going to be painted down the middle of the street on that block.
“People are pulling in incorrectly now. If there are double lines down the middle, then people are crossing a double line to get into a stall,” the mayor said.
He said the city does not want to ticket people, but the current scenario is confusing to people, with some drivers thinking they are pulling onto a one-way street.
Kane said back-in angle parking is more prevalent on the east and west coasts of the United States but is starting to make its way to the Midwest.
Ald. Paul Mayou said he thinks back-in angle parking is the ways things are going, and as a result, people need to get used to it.
For the sake of the Main Street grant, he said the city should continue the pilot project on Union Street.
In addition to having a double yellow line painted on the street, the city also plans to increase the signage and do additional advertising.
The reconstruction and redevelopment of Main Street is expected to begin in 2019.
In a memo to the council, Kane noted the city hopes to hear back from the DOT within 30 to 45 days in regard to the design exception it is seeking.
The city plans to have an open house in January.
It will be open to the community for review and comments.
Two meetings are also planned this month related to the project.
The first one is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, in the library meeting rooms.
The city’s consultants want to meet with interested art groups, artists and art store owners for opportunities to partner with local artists and seek their perspective for art in the downtown area.
The second meeting is a downtown business forum at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, in the meeting room at Farmers State Bank.
That meeting is for interested business and property owners within the downtown study area.
The consultants will provide an update on the project and answer questions.