The commission’s work session begins at 5:30 p.m. in commission chambers at city hall.
Mayor Tom Tourville said he will allow public comment at the work session. Typically, there are no decisions made and no votes taken at work sessions and public comment is not taken. Tourville said he has gotten many e-mails about the project.
“Almost 100 percent of all concerns have been worries about loss of parking and how important parking is to the economic livelihood of downtown,” he said. “That’s been the overwhelming focus.”
The reconstruction of Main Street includes replacing water and sewer lines, reconstruction of the road surface, new pedestrian sidewalks, a tree-lined boulevard down the center of Main and the elimination of diagonal parking in favor of parallel spaces.
The project has been budgeted at about $1 million, according to City Engineer Keith Whittington.
Mona Lang, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, said the switch in parking will result in the loss of about 23 parking spaces.
“They can’t possibly even consider eliminating parking,” said Don Durley, owner of Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery on Jackson Cut. “Not only does that stifle current business, it prevents businesses from growing.”
Durley said he was all for the reconstruction project, but he said it should include more parking to encourage growth.
Whittington said the switch to parallel parking was meant to address safety issues on Main Street. He said about half of all traffic accidents on the street are parking related.
A parking study started on Dec. 12 shows that 50 percent to 60 percent of available parking spaces near Main Street aren’t used regularly, Whittington said. He said during peak times, such as Friday, the parking lots are only filled up to 72 percent of capacity.
Downtown business owners have disputed the results of the study.
Assistant City Manager Karl Zueger said the city commission — at a future meeting — can direct the engineering department to alter the reconstruction project, scheduled for the spring.
“Staff will provide the best project design based on engineering principles and good planning standards but (the project) can always be massaged in some capacity,” he said.
A controversial reconstruction project on Main Street, which would eliminate 23 parking spaces, will be discussed by the Marquette City Commission on Thursday. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)