GOSHEN — City government has $2 million to renovate Main Street in downtown and the public added its 2 cents to the plan Monday.
A crowd of 42 people, with most of those connected to a downtown business, gathered at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce to give input and listen to ideas about the possibilities for the business artery. Mayor Jeremy Stutsman told those gathered that the meeting will be the first of several to hash out ideas for the project.
“This project has been talked about for 10 or 15 or more years,” Stutsman said.
The city government will finally be able to make changes to the road because when the U.S. 33 reroute is completed this fall, the state will relinquish control of the street from Madison to Pike streets, which now carries U.S. 33.
Stutsman said the $2 million the city has is from tax increment finance funds for the tax district that includes downtown. Those funds, according to Stutsman, have to be spent on infrastructure within the district.
Dustin Sailor, director of public works for the city, said half of the money will be needed to replace the pavement on Main Street, leaving just $1 million for other changes.
“We know the pavement is not in good condition,” Sailor said. “Regardless of what happens, the pavement needs to be removed and replaced.”
Another infrastructure need is the replacement of the 1934 sewer line under Main Street, according to Sailor. That line carries both sewage and storm water. But Sailor said the city does not have the funds to replace the line while the road is torn up for repaving.
Another need he said is an upgrade to the electrical system. He said city workers found there was not enough voltage available to light incandescent Christmas ornaments along Lincoln Avenue, so LED lights had to be used.
Audience members tossed out a lot of ideas, a few of them were conduit for fiber optics for business use, water and electric lines for special events, bicycle lanes, a lower speed limit, more bicycle racks, pedestrian crossings at mid-block alleys, signs to warn drivers pedestrians have the right of way, replacing all sidewalks and an irrigation system for the downtown landscaping.
Stutsman, Sailor and City Engineer Leslie Biek also indicated a change to angled parking is in the mix of ideas.
“When you are thinking about the parking, whether you like parallel or angled parking, there are a lot of options out there. You could put angled parking on both sides of street potentially, maybe just one side of the street, so you end up with wider lanes.”
Using angled parking could almost double the number of parking spaces downtown, the city employees indicated.
Stutsman added about the parking, “There have been no decisions made, we are looking for input from the community and hopefully out of this the city engineering and consultants we hire can put together a good plan that everyone will be exited about.”
In addition, once the new U.S. 33 is opened, there may be no need to keep the traffic signals at the Main and Clinton and Main and Jefferson intersections due to reduced traffic, according to Sailor. He said traffic studies will need to be made in the future before signals could be replaced with four-way stops.
An audience member asked the city officials if they had looked at what other communities that have had state highways rerouted out of their downtowns have done to their main streets.
“We have looked at some of that,” Sailor answered. “We have not dove deep into that yet. It is more of what this community wants and what they feel is necessary. That is why we are starting with this discussion first.”
The conversation turned to angled parking, which comes in two forms, head-in and back-in.
Former Goshen mayor Allan Kauffman suggested that people have strong opinions on angled parking and the city employees should gather traffic data on how much safer it is than parallel parking so the public can be educated.
“Anytime angled parking is proposed, even if it is head-in angled parking, there are going to be people who complain about accidents and that you can’t see past the big vans and trucks or whatever,” he said. “I think we need to be prepared and do the research to show what has worked on Clinton Street and Washington Street.”
Biek said when she worked for the city of Elkhart the areas that had angled parking only had one accident she could remember, and that was when a person backed across the entire road and struck another car.
“But there were more accidents with the parallel parking in hitting a parked car,” Biek said.
One business owner wondered if the city will have enough money to do angled parking, citing the need for improving the sidewalks before anything else is done.
“Wholesale replacement of the sidewalks will come down to a numbers crunch,” Sailor said.
Darin Sorg of Sorg Jewelers, asked if the improvements will be made at one time, or taken on in several phases over a number of years. Sailor said it would be a one-time project.
He then asked, “From this meeting, what is the priority for everybody? Is it fix the lighting? Fix the sidewalks. What does this group want.”
Sailor explained that the trees planted downtown is causing a lot of the upheaval in downtown sidewalks. He said a study done before the landscaping was installed recommended the trees be replaced after seven to 10 years so that wouldn’t happen.”
Sorg suggested that changing the road and parking layout before fixing the sidewalks would be “putting the cart before the horse.”
“You need to make sure you have enough money leftover to do the sidewalks,” he said.
Stutsman said that if a master plan can be created for Main Street, then many of the items suggested Monday might be able to be addressed in the future.
“We may only have $2 million now, but we might be able to keep pecking away at that plan it if we do it in the right process over the next four or five or 10 years,” Stutsman said.
Stutsman urged the public to provide their opinions and ideas about the project by stopping in the mayor’s office, engineering or contacting city departments by email through the city’s website at goshenindiana.org. He added the city will be posting a survey about the project on the website in the future.