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Bike accommodations, parking continue to be points of discussion in proposed Downtown Main Street plan

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — At the fifth of at least eight public input meetings scheduled for the proposed multi-phased Downtown Main Street Plan, bicycle accommodations and parking continued to be the topic of discussion.

City staff members continue to gather public input on a multi-phased streetscape plan for 10 blocks along Salisbury’s Main Street. The latest presentation of the plan was made at a Thursday meeting of the Neighborhood Leaders Alliance.

The first part of the plan, which is set to take place sometime before the end of this year, involves re-striping. The second phase includes a long-term vision for sidewalks and parking improvements to beautify the downtown area and make it more appealing for pedestrians.

The area in the plan — formulated from guidance from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Downtown Salisbury Inc., city staff and local residents — spans from the Monroe Street intersection with South Main Street to the railroad tracks on North Main Street. The purpose of the plan is to make infrastructure improvements for parking, lighting, curbs and gutters and storm system sewers.

The plan includes left turn lanes throughout the entire corridor, with designated areas for bus stops and unloading zones. As one travels farther north in the corridor, parking will transition from diagonal on both sides to a split of diagonal parking on one side and parallel parking on the other.

George W. Benson, who also serves on the Rowan County Board of Elections, asked about the availability of handicap-accessible parking — something he said the city misses the mark on currently. Salisbury urban design planner Alyssa Nelson pointed out where some of those spots would be available in the new plan. For example, three are proposed within the stretch from Fisher Street to Innes Street.

Since beginning the public input process, many public comments have been made concerning biking accessibility. And at Thursday’s meeting, Sue McHugh asked about the possibility of implementing more bike space. Nelson recalled what Dan Lambert, an architect with McAdams Landscape Architecture and Engineering firm, told city council members on Dec. 1, which is that implementing bike lanes throughout each block could result in the loss of 40-50 parking spaces. But though sharrows, or pavement markings for bicyclists, weren’t included in the preliminary plan, they will be added in later versions.

Implementing more bicycle space in the plan isn’t off the table, Nelson said.

The project began in 2016 when Downtown Salisbury Inc. hosted an open house session to engage citizens on ways to improve the downtown area as part of a larger Downtown Master Plan. Additionally, locals could answer survey questions related to the project online. One of the questions asked locals to choose three elements of the project that were most important to them. The results showed three top priorities were pedestrian lighting (63%), outdoor dining (56%) and street trees (52%).

But parking is another important factor. Hannah Jacobson, the city’s planning director, said part of the challenge in creating the plan is balancing adequate parking with pedestrian space.

The plan includes parallel parking on both sides in the area between Monroe Street to Horah Street, with left turn lanes in both directions. Trees, lights and furnishings would exist within the first 5 feet from the curb, with 15 additional feet of sidewalk.

Then, when moving to the area between Bank and Fisher streets, parallel parking would be on one side and diagonal parking on the other, with 5 fewer feet from the curb in that area.

Diagonal parking would be included for both sides from Fisher Street to Innes Street, which allows for a higher volume of parking as there is more activity in this area. The area would include 15-feet sidewalk and loading zones.

However, while the number of parking spaces along various blocks may shift, only one parking spot is lost. Fisher Street to Innes Street, for example, is proposed to lose nine parking spots. But Nelson said Thursday, if one of the three loading zones on that stretch is eliminated or if mid-block crossing are eliminated, it could open up eight spots.

Additionally, the modified angle for parking also opens up more parking space, Jacobson said.

Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes said he’s a fan of mid-block crossings because they provide more safety. He added that no pedestrian has been hit yet in his five years with the department. And it’s also rare for vehicles to be hit while parked in the diagonal spots currently available downtown.

The three-lane model, which reduces the speed of traffic, is another favorable safety measure, Stokes said.

Carlton Jackson, a local educator, suggested city staff and McAdams consider implementing lights similar to those on Fisher Street, even though they’re privately owned.

“Salisbury is a beautiful downtown city and I want to see it continue to grow and expand in that direction,” Jackson said.

Nelson said city staff are currently in the process of soon launching an online interactive option for locals to share their input on individual parts of the plan.

Two in-person meetings will be held today from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Koco Java, located at 329 N Main St., and from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. near Sidewalk Deli on 120 S. Main St.

Another virtual opportunity for public input is scheduled for Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. Locals can visit us02web.zoom.us/j/85452162365.

The proposed plan can be viewed by visiting salisburync.gov/Government/Community-Planning-Services/Community-Plans/Downtown-Main-Street-Plan.

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