After months of discussion, data collection and public comment, the city of Laramie’s Traffic Commission voted June 13 to restore the parking recently removed from around the intersection of Fourth and Clark streets.
The Laramie City Council, however, will still have to approve the decision before the yellow paint can be removed.
Much of the street parking was removed after the traffic light at the intersection was taken down, adjusting the intersection to reflect the new traffic patterns after the demolition of the Clark Street bridge.
Residents and business owners in the area have made repeated public comments at both City Council and Traffic Commission meetings in the last few months about the hardship resulting from the loss of parking and whether it was fair to target one intersection on the street.
“On the bottom of the letter (from the city) I got it says, ‘Improving our quality of life,’” said Jay Talbott, owner of a business near the intersection, during the time for public comment. “I’m curious who came up with that and why they sent it to me because it’s not improving the quality of my life.”
Another business owner in the area, James Rinehart, said he brought “50 applications for Fourth Street and Ninth Street to improve the safety of the intersections,” holding a stack of paper at the podium in the council chambers. Talbott, too, said he brought applications for other parts of the city without such strict yellow paint to point out the unfairness of the sudden parking change at their intersection.
“If they need to set a precedent by painting ours yellow,” Rinehart said during the meeting, “do we really want to open this can of worms?”
City staff was asked to look at traffic counts for the area while students were still in town to determine if a four-way stop or other measures could be enacted to restore parking. With the updated numbers, city engineers found a two-way stop, which is currently in place, is the warranted traffic signal for the area.
Despite the traffic count results, many of the commission members agreed it felt unfair to take away parking in some intersections and not others.
However, commission members were not thrilled at some of the public’s tactics. Vice chair Michael Moeller said he felt like some of the business owners were “trying to make us feel like we’re being held hostage.”
“That’s my only issue with the whole thing is I don’t want to be held hostage when I do this,” Moeller said during the meeting. “I want what’s best for the city of Laramie and the citizens.”
Commission member Lindsay Schumaker said while she sympathized with the loss of parking, she had some concerns with potential liability and safety issues resulting from restoring parking and going against engineering guidelines.
“Our job isn’t to necessarily decide what liability the city takes, people are voted in for those kinds of big decisions,” she said during the meeting. “Even if we say no, or even if we go with city’s recommendation, the City Council — who was elected by the whole city — can decide what’s in the best interest of the city.”
The commission voted 5-2 to reject city staff’s recommendation, restoring the parking. Schumaker and Moeller voted to approve staff’s recommendation and keep the yellow paint.
The City Council is expected to vote on the measure in July.