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Downtown group recommends omitting parts of Main Avenue plan

Downtown businesses will recommend the Park Rapids City Council omit mid-block nodes, mid-block crosswalks and speed tables from the Main Avenue reconstruction project, which is slated to begin in 2010. (Source: RDG Downtown Park Rapids Plan)

Downtown businesses will recommend omitting mid-block nodes, mid-block crosswalks and speed tables from the Main Avenue reconstruction project.

A majority of downtown business owners voted Wednesday to make that recommendation to the Park Rapids City Council at a workshop Tuesday. The city council will also address the assessment policy at the workshop, said city administrator Bill Smith.

Construction of Main Avenue is slated for the summer of 2010.

A key area of discussion Wednesday was parking.

"There's a question about parking spots and losing them if we choose to go with mid-block nodes and crosswalks," said Ellis Jones, chairman of the Downtown Revitalization Committee.

He has the belief that the number of parking spots isn't necessarily the problem.

"I think we have a parking management problem," Jones said. "There are a number of employees taking choice spots."

The mid-block crosswalk enhancements and raised speed tables were included in the RDG plan that was completed in 2008.

City engineer Jon Olson said including three raised mid-block crosswalks would cost as much as $45,000 total for three of them.

Olson worked with Park Rapids police chief Terry Eilers to figure out the number of traffic accidents in downtown in the last five years.

There were 38 reported accidents and all were minor with no injuries. All but one accident were the result of parked vehicles backing out of a spot. There was only one speeding violation and that occurred at about midnight when the street was clear of cars, Olson said.

The number of parking spots is also a concern with including mid-block nodes. The mid-block crosswalks would eliminate about 10 parking stalls per block, Olson said. The impact is 52 stalls per block vs. 62 stalls.

Olson came to the following conclusions:

-There is no evidence of a safety concern.

-The unique parking situation naturally calms the driving speed.

-Mid-block crosswalks create a possible false sense of safety.

-The closeness of crosswalks in downtown could limit the effectiveness.

-Mid-block crosswalks would increase the cost of the project by about $45,000.

-Mid-block crosswalks that are raised would show wear sooner.

Olson also addressed speed tables, or raised crosswalks. He said that they often cause inconsistent driving behavior and could disrupt traffic. In researching other cities that have speed tables, many say they are not effective.

City planner Dan Walker said he thinks that mid-block crosswalks are actually more dangerous. The loss of parking spots also troubles him.

Tony Bunde, who owns Fresh Catch and Wildwood Enchantment, said he liked the idea of having mid-block crossings to make it comfortable for pedestrians. He thought people would use benches placed in those areas.

A vote was taken to recommend omitting the three enhancements. The recommendation will be made to the Park Rapids City Council at a workshop at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The goal is to have final details of the plan completed and presented to the council in November.