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Erik Burgess, Published January 29 2014

Fargo to study 4-hour street parking in some downtown areas

FARGO – A city task force is studying increasing the time limits on street parking in certain downtown areas.

Fargo’s Parking Commission will meet Friday and consider a staff proposal to increase most 90-minute zones east of Fifth Street downtown to four-hour zones.

City Commissioner Mike Williams said lengthening on-street parking on off-Broadway streets needs to be part of the city’s plan to address the parking squeeze likely when Second Street is shifted west and a floodwall is built.

The floodwall will eat up about 150 spots in the 450-stall Civic Center parking lot. When construction begins on a new City Hall on the north side of the lot later this year, another 150 spots will be gone.

Williams said changing the 90-minute zones to four-hour zones doesn’t have to be a permanent fix.

“They could be temporary while we’re doing these projects,” he said. “And then if we see that it works, we’d keep it that way. But right now, we want to make sure, is ‘four hours’ the right number?”

Planner Joe Nigg said if the Parking Commission likes the concept, city staff will further develop a plan of action before presenting a formal staff proposal at the next meeting Feb. 28.

“Really, we’re just throwing this on the table to see what the Parking Commission’s initial reaction is,” he said.

If parking commissioners do support the idea, Nigg said city staff will get feedback from businesses and property owners affected by the changes. Staff will likely also talk to police about how parking enforcement would change.

The city formed a Downtown Parking Task Force last year and charged the group with studying how to change the underused on-street parking that’s near, but not on, Broadway.

Most on-street parking downtown has 90-minute restrictions. It was a decision the city made in 1999, thinking consistent parking rules downtown would be less confusing for drivers and easier to police.

Last fall, the Downtown Parking Task Force changed some 90-minute parking in front of the downtown YMCA to two-hour zones.

“That’s working well,” Williams said. “So we’re kind of evolving as the downtown evolves.”

If the Parking Commission approves the changes east of Fifth Street, which doesn’t include spots on Fifth Street under the boundaries as proposed, Nigg said staff will continue to consider changing the time limits for other areas of off-Broadway parking.

“There’s a lot of different pockets of different uses. It can’t just be a broad brush,” Nigg said, of the 90-minute zones. “We really need to, in some of these areas, dig into what’s there, and what’s going to work.”

Parking Commission member Margie Bailly said a new downtown parking ramp has to be a continued topic of discussion.

“There has been a need since early 2000 to really be looking at this, and we have to figure out partnerships that can make this happen,” she said.

The Parking Commission will meet in the City Commission chambers at 8 a.m. Friday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518