With growth in business and increased tourist traffic through Bingen, parking has resurfaced as a problem in need of a solution.
At the March 21 meeting of the Bingen City Council, the city's elected officials discussed ways to solve a growing shortage of parking for the downtown area.
Three key areas were considered for expanded parking: Depot Street, the city-owned empty lot at 400 W. Steuben, and State Route 14 (Steuben) through the business district.
Mayor Brian Prigel said the ongoing expansion of The Insitu Group has played a role in the renewed focus on parking, but by no means is that the only factor.
"It's been an issue for quite a long time," Prigel said. "We need to corral our parking, and make it more clearly defined."
Insitu is in the process of remodeling the old Winery Building, bringing more traffic to that end of the city. As a result, more parking will be needed.
"Insitu also has to have a handicap parking space at street level," Prigel added.
According to Prigel, the gravel lot at 400 W. Steuben, which is about half an acre in size, is not often used because people may not realize it's available to the public.
"It's always been open, but with wheel stops and signs, it will at least look like a parking lot," Prigel said.
Prigel said the city planned to order about 100 wheel stops and signs to help organize parking patterns along Depot Street and at 400 W. Steuben.
The signs will inform motorists that the areas are intended for public parking and that overnight parking is not allowed.
The wheel stops and signs together had an estimated price tag of approximately $5,000.
"It's been an issue for quite a long time. This doesn't really create more spaces, but we may get more cars in there if they are parking haphazardly and this helps to organize," Prigel said.
"This is part of the pains of growing," commented council member Betty Barnes.
Another issue that came up in the discussion is one the council has addressed previously: whether to block off a space for a loading zone.
"A loading zone in mid-block takes away more than one parking space," Prigel commented.
Council member Randy Anderson said that idea made little sense, given the existing lack of parking.
"I don't want to approve a loading zone," Anderson said. "To block off parking is exactly the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. I wouldn't go for this."
Council member Tim Hearn made a motion to deny creation of a loading zone, and the council supported it with a 5-0 vote.
A second motion, to add a space for handicapped parking on the south side of the 100 block of W. Steuben, was approved 5-0.
The council also unanimously approved the purchase of wheel stops and signs.
On a related topic, council member Barnes asked why S. Ash Street, between Beneventi's and the Mansfield Hardware building, had not been made one-way -- a move that was approved by the council several years ago.
"That street was designated as one-way for safety," said council member Terry Trantow.
Trantow added that with cars parked on both sides of the street, there was not room for two cars to safely pass each other.
"It's only one lane there," Trantow said. "The original motion was to make that street one way southbound off SR 14, and have angled parking at 90-degree angles against the Mansfield building."
The council tabled the issue until a future meeting.
After the March 21 session, Barnes noted that the council's vote to make that short stretch of S. Ash a one-way road happened "at least a year ago," and questioned why the action was not followed through on.
"It would be nice if once we approve something like that, if something holds it up, we're informed as to why," Barnes said.
"It was approved at least three years ago," Prigel said. "We were waiting for the highway project to finish. At that point, construction hadn't even started."
Barnes added that she still supports making the street one way, for two reasons: for enhanced traffic safety and as a way to increase the number of parking spaces available there.
"We can get more parking out of it if it's a one-way street, and pulling up that road it's kind of hard to see with the sidewalk bubbled out and the way cars are parked there sticking out. And it's awful steep."
Barnes added that she was glad the city was addressing the parking issue, especially for 400 W. Steuben.
"I've talked to businesses that weren't aware they could park there," Barnes explained. "With the wheel stops and signage, people will catch on. It's a good way to use the property until other plans for the site take shape, rather than let it sit vacant."