ATHENS — A public hearing will be held April 14 to discuss a proposed change to the parking law on North Franklin Street in the village.
Officials are looking to prohibit parking on the west side of the street, amending village traffic law section 220.13, Mayor Stephan Bradicich said at the March 24 meeting of the board.
Parking on the even side of the street would be prohibited, and parking would be permitted on the east, or odd, side of the street.
Village officials began considering the change about seven months ago, but no alterations to the law were made at that time. The biggest concern during discussions was the impact on speeding as the driveable part of the street is widened, Bradicich said.
A traffic study was done to monitor speeding of the roughly 4,700 vehicles that traveled on the street over a 20-day period.
“Generally, during peak hours, it averages between six and nine cars an hour on North Franklin Street, coming and going,” Bradicich said. “Of the 4,705, 95-96% were under the speed limit and between 1% and 2% were what is considered excessive, which is over 40 mph. In those cases it averaged 40.7.”
The village speed limit is 30 mph.
“The concern is that as you make a street wider or more accessible, it does tend to bring the speed up on that street, so the concern was that if we already have a problem with speeding, will this exacerbate it?” Bradicich said. “The net of it is, we don’t have a problem with speeding overall on North Franklin Street.”
Several residents argued the electronic speed sign deterred some drivers from speeding during the traffic study.
“I appreciate that the speed test was conducted, but people do see these signs and they do slow down,” resident Annika Vogt said. “I just know — and as many have stated before — that speed is a consistent issue. It hasn’t been lately with the speed test reader, but I think it will become a real issue again once that is taken down.”
Mayor-elect Amy Serrago said safety on the street, particularly along the narrower portions of the road, was a top concern. She stopped near the stop sign on North Franklin Street and watched as traffic drove through.
“There was just a regular sedan and it was so tight getting through — both sides of the street were fully parked up and it looked as if even that sedan was having a hard time getting through with all of those cars parked there,” Serrago said. “The whole thing began as a safety concern. I was trying to figure out how little change we could make, not necessarily all the way to the firehouse because I do understand that there are several residents there who have no off-street parking.”
Serrago asked Athens Fire Chief Wayne Butterworth, who also works for the village Department of Public Works, how traveling along the narrow street works for large vehicles.
“It’s not just the fire trucks,” Butterworth said. “When I have to plow that route it gets too tight, trying to plow the snow through there.”
Village Trustee Rickie Gabrielle supported the change.
“I think this is the way to go. One side — the east side — park. People have driveways, they can use them to be on the safety side,” Gabrielle said. “That is the way to go from the firehouse down to Market [Street]. That’s the only way I can see to solve the problem.”
Officials debated precisely where the road becomes narrow enough to need the change in the parking law. A Google Earth map indicates the road narrows near 30 North Market St., Serrago said.
“I know it’s a hardship for people who don’t have off-street parking,” Serrago said. “The [village parking] lot is up the street, but it’s a little ways.”
Resident Jane-Cole Raftery voiced concerns that the process is taking too long and should be wrapped up as soon as possible.
“This has already been going on for seven months without anything happening whatsoever,” Raftery said.
Village officials will measure the street to determine where it is deemed too narrow for parking on both sides prior to the April 14 public hearing.