Compromise was the keyword last week as the Laramie City Council tried to find a solution to try to please city engineers and the public.
The Council voted 7-1 during its Sept. 3 meeting to reinstate some of the parking that was taken away from the intersection of Fourth and Clark streets when the signal was removed last year.
The traffic signal was removed to reflect traffic changes after the demolition of the Clark Street Bridge, and engineering standards for the new two-way stop warranted the removal of 10 spaces at the intersection so stopped cars could safely see oncoming traffic.
The city’s Traffic Commission voted to reinstate all the lost parking, while city staff recommended keeping the yellow paint where it is.
The council did neither, instead voting 7-1 to pass an amendment restoring six parking spaces spread out between each side of the intersection.
City engineers notified the council during the meeting they could not support the amendment as it violated a state statute barring “practicing professional engineering without a license.”
“It will make the intersection unsafe,” said Eric Jaap, city engineer, during the meeting. “If this amendment passes, … we are bound ethically to report this to (the Wyoming Board of Professional Engineers) as this item is changing the professional engineering design which is in violation of state statute.”
Although supportive of the measure because it’s “trying to do some community problem solving,” Councilman Paul Weaver noted there could be some unintended consequences from going against federal engineering standards.
“If authorities outside of the city of Laramie and Albany County weigh in on this, I’m not sure what that means for the future,” he said.
The sole “no” vote for both to the amendment and the motion reinstating the spaces, Councilwoman Jayne Pearce said whenever she drove through the intersection over the last few months, she was “always able to find parking.”
“I don’t understand how none of us here being engineers could even presume to think that we should disagree with our engineers,” she said. “We hire professional staff for a reason.”
She also noted city staff had already compromised once by allowing the driver to “creep” forward past the crosswalk to increase sight distance for potential cars. The allowance for “creep” restored four parking spaces prior to the council’s meeting; Jaap said it was the most spaces they could restore while keeping the intersection safe.
Councilman Brian Harrington, the author of the amendment, said it was meant to be a compromise, not a slight against city staff.
Others who voted for the amendment, including Mayor Joe Shumway, also noted wanting to find some sort of compromise; Shumway said his vote has “no reflection, in my mind, on the work that they do.”
Weaver added the council is trying to do its job as “the buffer between the public and city staff.”
“I hope, and I don’t believe it is, that this is regarded by members of our staff as a rejection of all the hard work that they did to get where they are and the work they’re doing on the project,” Weaver said. “That’s not it. This is us doing our job, which is to try to respond to the public, and there’s just not a perfect solution often.”
Although she felt “really uncomfortable with going against the engineering recommendation” for the intersection, Councilwoman Erin O’Doherty said she voted for the measure due to the lack of notice given to the residents about the intersection changes.
During previous meetings, many of the residents and business owners in the area cited the lack of notice as one of their complaints about the intersection changes. Additionally, comments were made about the difficulty of parking in front of residences and loss of business customers.
Councilman Charles McKinney was absent from the meeting.