AUBURN — Auburn city officials hope a change from front-angle parking to back-angle parking on Genesee Street will alleviate the number of accidents downtown.
In a presentation given to city council members Thursday about the Genesee Street Paving Project, Jeff Reina, an engineer at C & S Companies, said there were 53 accidents on Genesee Street from 2011 to 2014. Fourteen of those accidents were directly related to the current front-angled parking.
"There is an accident problem in the downtown area," Reina said.
Reina said back-angle parking is safer than front-angled parking and cities that implement the change, such as Syracuse, see a decrease in accidents related to parking.
Since the project is receiving funding from the state, it must adhere to the state Department of Transportation regulations for parking. There are exceptions to the regulations, however, Genesee Street does not meet the criteria for an exception.
Reina suggested the city implement a pilot parking program to give citizens a chance to get used to the change before construction begins. Mayor Michael Quill suggested a trial block of back-angle parking from North Street to Loop Road.
Reina said if the city decides to not go forward with the back-angled parking, there is the option of changing the configurations to parallel parking during the construction phase. However, the city would lose approximately 35 parking spots.
"We looked at parallel parking as an option but we felt parking downtown is a premium," Reina said. "If we convert to parallel parking, we would lose spaces."
During the public to be heard section of the meeting, citizen Tom Schuster, who works for SCAT Van, a company that transports senior citizens, expressed concern about backing large vehicles into the parking spaces. Reina said there is the possibility to designate certain spaces for large vehicles, such as trucks and vans.
"This is certainly on the verge of controversial," Reina said. "A lot of people have some angst over it. Change is hard for anything, whether positive or negative, and it takes time for people to adapt."
Reina said construction will begin in September and take between 15 to 17 months. It will cost approximately $3.5 million and also include road repairs, the addition of bike lanes, enhanced cross walks and other safety features.
In other news:
• Owasco Lake Watershed inspector Andrew Snell said 18 violations were identified along the watershed in 2016. Five of those violations involved improper disposal of an animal carcass.
Snell said if a homeowner is found to be in violation of a watershed policy, they are given 30 days to correct the problem before other actions are taken. He said education is most important when it comes to keeping the lake clean.
"There's going to be a learning curve over time," Snell said. "It may be one of those generational things. I think it's more of an understanding over time. We'll get there."
Snell said inspectors made 121 trips to the watershed in 2016 and collected over 260 water samples.
Going forward, Snell said he and the other inspectors are working toward stronger, more uniformed regulations and faster project implementation.
"We see a lot of positives and we have a lot of hope going forward," Snell said.
• The number of streets in Auburn rated as good by the Auburn Department of Engineering Services has increased 10 percent this year.
According to Mark Odrzywolski, assistant civil engineer, 287 sections of streets are considered good, while 112 streets are rated as failed, a slight increase from last year.
"Contrary to popular belief, the streets aren't that bad," Odrzywolski said.
Odrzywolski said 13 streets are scheduled to be updated this year, including Osborne and Bradford streets. Many of the streets have not had work done since the late 1990s or early 2000s. The budget to repair the streets is $1.3 million.
• Prison City Brew Pub and Brewery was recognized by the council for its top five finish at Gov. Andrew Cuomo's inaugural Taste New York Craft Beer Challenge.
Dawn Schulz, the owner of the pub, was presented with a framed certificate from Mayor Quill.
"It was a true honor to go down and meet the governor and represent Auburn," Schulz said. "We're so thrilled to be part of this community."
• The council will include free two-hour parking in the Auburn parking garage as part of the new fiscal year budget. The council will vote on the budget at next week's city council meeting.