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Study: Parking still problem

County court's peak day could max out supply of spaces

Christine Metz

A parking study for a possible downtown justice center found that parking will be a problem only on peak days, causing drivers to search for parking spaces in a larger area.

According to the study, there is no question a downtown judicial center will test the limits of the area’s parking supply during multiple trials scheduled at the same time. During such peak times, long-term parking likely will occur in two-hour zones and in adjacent neighborhoods. The study, completed Aug. 18 by consultants Fox-Higgins, is in draft form.

The study also states that during usual peak weekday afternoon parking, the demand can be reasonably accommodated by the existing parking supply, but demand will increase on blocks beyond those immediately adjacent to the courthouse.

In a memo, the city noted the parking study could be interpreted to support both keeping the judicial center downtown and building it west of town next to the Routt County Jail.

“If you do not want a downtown courthouse, the high occupancy of the courthouse and seven-block face area during the 2004 inventory support your case. However, the study also shows that the downtown courthouse will only produce a problem on peak days (when there are simultaneous jury trials),” the memo stated.

In July, the city and county agreed to split the cost of the $11,000 study, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had requested before making a decision on whether to grant the county a wetlands permit for the western site. The permit is needed for the county to build on that site.

The city was “deeply disappointed” in August when the Routt County Board of Commissioners sent a letter, before the parking study was completed, outlining its reasons for wanting to keep the justice center west of town.

At that time, City Manager Paul Hughes called the study “a waste of money” in light of the commissioners’ stance.

“I don’t know if there is a next step, necessarily,” Hughes said Thursday about the parking study. “They have already made up their minds.”

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the council agreed to send the study to the Main Street Design Group, which is studying the downtown parking situation. It will ask that group to come back with recommendations.

County Manager Tom Sullivan was not comfortable commenting on the draft form of the study and said a finalized version is expected early next week.

Sullivan noted that parking was one of a many factors the commissioners weighed in determining the location of the justice center.

The August parking survey showed that the parking supply immediately around the courthouse block was more than 90 percent occupied during peak afternoon hours, even without a major jury trial in session. People searching for a convenient downtown parking spot perceive as “full” a parking occupancy of 86 percent or more.

In the study, the consultants recommend that the county reallocate its parking to provide more two-hour, close-in, short-term parking for visitors. The city also could convert its eight-hour parking spaces on Sixth Street to two-hour spaces.

The changes would displace parking for some county employees onto adjacent streets and would require some form of monitoring and enforcement, the study noted.

City officials added that other parking management alternatives existed, such as giving jurors permits to allow them to park longer in the two-hour spaces and providing off-site parking at Stock Bridge Transit Center or the rodeo grounds.

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com


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