Belfast city councilors took a deep dive into some of the city’s parking and traffic problems at Tuesday night’s regular meeting and made some changes to how cars and trucks will move through downtown.
Among other alterations, they decided to turn short sections of two-way streets into one-way streets. Miller Street will be one-way heading uphill, or west, from the intersection of High Street to the intersection of Court Street. This block starts at the corner of the Belfast Free Library and passes in front of the Unitarian Universalist Church.
Councilors also decided to make Spring Street one way heading downhill, or east, from Church Street to High Street. This is the block that runs past the former Belfast District Court building that is now home to the Waldo County Probate Court and other county offices.
Councilors said that section of Miller Street is so narrow it is nearly impossible for two cars to pass each other. Included in their packet was a letter from a Miller Street resident who said she is looking forward to the change.
“This is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time,” Leslie A. Miller wrote City Manager Joe Slocum last month. “I am tired of wondering whether cars coming the other way will move out of the way, or should I.”
As well, the council decided to make a four-way stop at the intersection of Church and Market streets near the new courthouse and the American Legion Hall.
“The speed of vehicles going up and down Market Street combined with the additional pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the neighborhood is at the root of this proposed change,” Slocum wrote in a notice of public hearing about the proposed change.
However, another proposal — to eliminate parking on the west side of Market Street, directly across from the Legion Hall — was tabled Tuesday after councilors heard strong opposition from some in the audience. Legion members and guests have long been accustomed to parking on the side of the street, and many are older and cannot comfortably walk longer distances from other parking spaces, the council learned.
“There are over 100 members of that club, many with walking sticks and wheelchairs,” one angry Legionnaire told the council. “We’ve always had [the parking spaces]. I don’t want to see the club discriminated against.”
The men from the American Legion in the audience said that they had measured the road and found that it was wider than Slocum had found in his measurements. They believe it is wide enough to have two-way traffic and parking spaces, too.
Councilor Mary Mortier said she wanted more information.
“There’s a major discrepancy here,” she said. “We can’t make a decision based on the facts we have.”
Councilor Eric Sanders suggested that representatives from the legion remeasure the road alongside Slocum or others from the city.
“I’d like to see both parties measure together and figure it out together,” he said. “Maybe Ned Lightner [of Belfast Community Television] should film it for TV.”