GOSHEN — Repaving and lane reductions on Main Street this year got the green light from the Goshen Redevelopment Commission Friday.

The commission voted 3-1 during a special meeting to accept a $929,657 bid from Niblock Excavating, which was one of four bids opened by the Board of Works Monday. The work will require a 2-1/2 week shutdown of Main Street in the downtown core when milling and paving are scheduled to start in October, while replacing the roughest sections of sidewalk is expected for September.

Plans also call for re-striping the road to reduce the number of lanes from four to two, adding painted bump-outs at crosswalks and changing parallel parking to angled parking while also adding some new handicapped-only spaces. 

Quotes for the work ranged as high as $1.63 million, though the city calculated a $924,000 estimated cost before accepting bids. The final amount with Niblock is $60,000 lower than the bid that was opened, because the city removed a decorative brick thermoplastic sidewalk from the contract.

The repaving is expected to extend the life of the road by at least 10 years, said Civil Traffic Engineer Leslie Biek.

She added that the project includes taking down the old state highway sign poles but doesn’t include removing the traffic lights that will be replaced by four-way stops. She said the city can remove the signal heads later, after drivers get used to the change.

Lane reduction

Public Works Director Dustin Sailor told the commission that the contract includes a quantity of road striping expressed in linear feet, without spelling out a design. The lane and parking changes had drawn some opposition from commission members.

As far as the lane reduction, Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said he wanted to remind the RDC members that the road is already one lane in either direction before opening up into four lanes through the downtown blocks.

“We’re not gonna be condensing any of the traffic,” he said ahead of the vote. “It’s gonna be just continuing as it was before it got to Main Street.”

Member Vince Turner said he appreciated the extra time that was put into the process behind the street plan. He also apologized for getting upset at the June 11 meeting, when RDC members voted down the effort to put the project out for bids after voicing objections to the traffic and parking changes, then reversed their decision later in the meeting.

He said his concern was still with traffic flow, but he felt more comfortable with the lane reduction after recognizing that what Stutsman said is true.

“I still welcome the discussion about whether or not we go to angled parking and how we’re going to do the striping and everything else, but the need to do the paving on the downtown street is paramount,” Turner said. “I think this is a healthy compromise on the part of the commission and on part of the city. We can get this done, get the asphalt done and everything else, and we can talk about the particulars before we move on.”

Commission member Brian Garber was the one vote against awarding the project.

Angled parking

Sailor said after the meeting that the switch to angled parking emerged as the favorite among residents after a series of public meetings and surveys, which drew more than 60 responses. Some residents said at the June 11 meeting that downtown business owners strongly supported it, though RDC members said they heard more complaints.

“We still believe angled parking is the preferred option,” Sailor said. “We’re gonna go back and review what that final plan is right now, and again listen to comment. But at a certain point we gotta build it, too.”

He said it’s a good use of the extra space created by the lane reduction, since it will create 42 new parking spots, and that it will meet a need for more parking after the Goshen Theater renovation is done. He said the design includes generous room to maneuver, and compared it favorable to a big box store parking lot. 

There are some other changes that can be made to make people feel more comfortable with backing up onto Main Street, such as reducing the speed limit to 25 mph, he noted. But he observed that people haven’t expressed the same concerns about angled parking that already exists on other busy streets.

“I think one of the best discussion points we had, someone brought up that one of our busiest parts of the downtown is that Washington Street corridor between Main Street and 5th Street, and what is it? It’s angled parking,” he said. “Nobody’s crying for that to be changed out into parallel, and I think if you put parallel in that, everybody would cry that they lost all that beneficial parking right in front of those businesses that they want to go to.”

He said people are concerned about the what-if, but he thinks if the city is able to make the change and people give it some time, they’ll decide it’s acceptable. Biek added that such a change is a pretty common fear, but she said accident statistics don’t show that angled parking is any more dangerous.

“I think people travelling through there, they slow down and they look for reverse lights. And people backing out, inch out,” she said. “I think it’s a common fear that doesn’t actually get realized.”

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