There’s some cause for celebration by motorists who need to traverse downtown Naperville in timely fashion, but it isn’t quite time yet to break out the streamers and confetti. Parking issues, meanwhile, remain a challenge for decision-makers.
Resurfacing work on Washington Street has wrapped up largely on schedule, with a final coating of polymer scheduled to top off the 1.2-mile stretch of new pavement late this week.
Bill Novack, head of the city’s Transportation, Engineering and Development divisions, said the “bump” signs scattered through the work area show manhole covers and uneven asphalt that will be smoothed with the final coating, a material that doesn’t perform well in the kind of cold, damp weather that prevailed earlier this week.
“We would have had problems with it,” Novack said.
A longer-term inconvenience for downtown drivers remains in place, however.
Van Buren Avenue is still closed to eastbound drivers, and that will continue to slow the flow until construction of the Promenade East retail/office project wraps up sometime next year.
In the meantime, two parking spots around the corner, which have been blamed for creating a bottleneck that prematurely forces southbound Washington to go from two lanes to one, are still benched.
“Basically the parking was restricted when we were doing the construction, and we were going to replace the striping after it was finished,” Novack said. “But then I started thinking that the city manager and police have the authority to continue those restrictions.”
There appears to be interest in giving up those two spaces, situated at the entry to the downtown retail district in the first block of South Washington. The matter came up anew at the Oct. 15 City Council meeting.
“I think there may be a majority of us here who think the time has come to retire those two spots,” said Councilman David Wentz, who said he and his coworkers encounter traffic daily when they leave their office at Washington and Franklin Avenue.
The two spaces, which still exist under city ordinance, will be scrutinized by the Transportation Advisory Board at its 8 a.m. meeting Nov. 2. The group will decide whether to recommend that the City Council change the ordinance.
It won’t be the first time focus has been put on the pair of parking spots. Novack said a 2004 study of parking on Washington Street was inconclusive on the need for the two spaces. And he understands the rationale for keeping them in place.
“The parked cars there create a nice buffer, and people feel safer walking there,” Novack told The Sun earlier this year. “And to be honest, if you didn’t have the choke point at Benton, if we took out those two spots, you’d have it at Van Buren.”
On that, at least one local business owner agrees.
“Last time they wanted to take those out, I went to the meeting with about 200 signatures, objecting to taking them out,” said Rick Motta, whose barber shop is next to the two closed-off spaces. “A lot of people feel that it’s nice to have a parking spot when you’re going to a shop or you’re going to a store, but you’re not solving anything because (gridlock) is going to happen just a block down.”
Motta, who sees the spots function as a speed deterrent and a shield against mud and rain splatters as well as a convenience for his patrons, has been in touch with city staff about the matter. He plans to urge officials to replace the striping that creates the two spots.
“We don’t have parking now, and it’s really hurt my business,” Motta said. “I’m probably down by about half over the past four weeks.”