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Berlin parking study stalls for lack of cash

First phase complete, next round must wait

Berlin, Maryland

By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer

(Aug. 1, 2019) The second phase of a study looking into Berlin’s parking has apparently been moved to the back burner for the time being as town officials cite financial concerns.

“We don’t have money in the budget to complete the second phase of the study, and there’s not funding in the budget to pursue a parking solution that involves any kind of investment or any kind of expense,” Berlin’s Town Administrator Laura Allen said last month.

Berlin’s Town Council in October 2018 approved a roughly $24,480 budget for the consulting firm, Sabra and Associates, of Columbia, Maryland, to conduct the parking study.

“So there was a lot of discussion, or I guess debate, around the need for additional parking,” Allen said. “It was some people saying that it’s critical and other folks saying that we’ve got adequate parking.”

Brian Laverty, project manager and senior transportation manager, was charged with assessing the availability of parking.

Laverty conducted field observations and gathered data on Nov. 23, Nov. 24 and Dec. 13. He added there are roughly 408 parking spots in 11 different lots and about 146 street parking spaces in downtown Berlin.

Some lots are private but made available to the public, like the large lot off of Main Street, while other lots are strictly public.

Additionally, he spoke with several community members, as well as council members and business owners.

Laverty was directed to assess the parking situation in Berlin by taking “a snapshot as it is right now.”

Allen expressed the concern of area business owners or employees parking in “high trafficked areas” for long periods of time.

“I think we have a parking management problem,” Allen said.

When asked if Berlin had a parking problem, Laverty responded, “Oh, there definitely is. There definitely is a parking crunch at certain times.”

However, Laverty also called the current environment in Berlin “pretty unique” because of the role weather plays when it comes to the traffic in the area.

“There are probably other places like that around the country,” Laverty said.

“Small towns with some quaint appeal to them … that have a pleasant interesting downtown with good shopping and restaurants that are relatively near to a beach community that probably have that same pattern,

but it still makes it pretty unique compared to almost any other place that I’ve done a parking study,” he added.

Moreover, Laverty said the volume in the off-season surprised him.

“The unusual pattern of things and the fact that the town has one high season in the summer, and they have a secondary high season into the late fall into December just because the atmosphere in the downtown and the shopping are such that they draw people in, even when it’s not beach season at all,” Laverty said.

He also outlined several parking recommendations for Berlin, including curbside management, pricing and enforcement and shared use agreements.

However, because these are recommendations only, Laverty stressed town officials are not obligated to implement them.

Among his suggestions were having a central location for Uber and Lyft pick-up and drop-offs.

He also proposed defining areas for loading zones and having the town look into enforcing the two-hour spots, which are currently free.

Town officials previously discussed the possibility of including a parking garage. Laverty asked others during his interviewing process and received mixed opinions.

“Every stakeholder [had] varying opinions on a parking garage,” Laverty said.

He was also unclear of the specifics surrounding any future plans for the garage.

While funds weren’t available for the fiscal year 2020, Allen said the mayor and council would discuss the possibility of progressing with the second phase of the study if funding was available.