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Knightville parking divides South Portland businesses, residents

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Knightville parking divides South Portland businesses, residents

SOUTH PORTLAND — Dozens of residents and business owners debated the merits of angled versus parallel parking and one-way versus two-way traffic for nearly two hours Monday night during a City Council workshop.

Shop owners want to keep their angled, drive-in parking spaces along Ocean Street in Knightville no matter what. Residents, for the most part, said they fear a one-way street will divert traffic to residential side streets. They oppose a plan put forward by the city to keep the angled spots by making two blocks of Ocean Street one-way.

The debate stems from a $2.9 million sewer separation, utility upgrade and sidewalk widening project along much of Ocean Street. The plan requires a change in the parking configuration north of the Legion Square roundabout.

Two plans are on the table: The first is the city's original proposal to remove the angled, drive-in parking spaces and replace them with parallel parking on both sides of the street. That would have reduced the number of parking spaces on the two blocks above E Street from 19 to 15.

After business owners complained about the plan, the city came up with the one-way compromise, which allowed for 12 angled spaces on the west side of the street and six parallel spots on the east side.

"We heard a lot of concerns about the type of parking, and I think this second proposal addresses that," Mayor Patti Smith said. But "it's a double-edged sword because now there's a one-way street that not likeable to some."

Many residents said they thought the solution would be to change nothing.

"The traffic flow in Knightville, the way it works right now, is great," said Caroline Hendry, an E Street resident and member of the Planning Board. "I don't think we should mess around with it."

But City Manager Jim Gailey and Sebago Technics engineer Dan Riley said doing nothing isn't an option, because state standards for angled parking require a wider angle than the spots on Ocean Street. After necessary sidewalk widening, two-way traffic will be impossible if angled spots are kept.

"You can't meet the current standard unless you make it a one-way," Riley said. "There's simply not enough road."

Councilors were undecided about whether to go with the original, two-way, parallel parking only plan or the compromise, one-way, angled plan. 

Councilor Al Livingston said the angled parking is necessary to avoid pushing spots hundreds of feet away from where they are now. He said a solution could involve prohibiting left turns from Ocean Street to A Street and B Street, thus alleviating concerns for increased traffic on the residential side streets.

Councilor Tom Coward supported the one-way compromise, saying "this satisfies the most needs with the least detriment, and satisfies state standards and the traffic engineers who've been looking at this."

Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis supported the original, parallel parking plan created by Sebago Technics.

"We can all Monday-morning quarterback and come up with the ways we think this would best serve us, but when all is said and done, we have professionals and engineers who know much more about this than we do," she said.

Decisions about parking can be made late in the project. Either plan can be implemented by paint alone, so the city may have more time to hash out a plan.

"We're not going to strike a perfect balance for everyone," Smith said.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.