VENTNOR – Some people say when both parties walk away from the negotiating table unhappy, the best compromise has been reached.
After listening to the concerns of Ventnor Avenue merchants, the city agreed Thursday, May 12 to further discuss the recent changes it made to the flow of traffic on the unit-block of South Newport Avenue.
Some business owners are not happy with the change made to the roadway configuration, which city officials say is necessary to ensure the safety of residents, visitors, pedestrians, and motorists.
According to Commissioner Tim Kriebel, the city met with business leaders and Chief of Police Joseph Fussner regarding the recent change on South Newport Avenue, turning it from a two-way street to a one-way street with traffic flowing from Atlantic Avenue to Ventnor Avenue.
The city made the change so it could be in effect before the start of the 100 days of summer.
The roadway is not wide enough to safely accommodate two lanes of traffic flowing in opposite directions with parking on one side of the street, officials said, so the road was reconfigured to make it one way going toward Ventnor Avenue.
One business owner said that change in direction would “strangle” the business community during its busy season.
Officials said the change was needed not only for public safety reasons but also to adhere to a pre-existing ordinance designating the flow of traffic on all city streets, Kriebel said.
About 30 years ago at the behest of business owners, the city made Newport Avenue between Atlantic and Ventnor avenues a two-way street so shoppers could access the municipal parking lot located in the middle of the block, but the administration never updated its ordinance.
“It was never codified,” Ventnor Business Association President Brenda Dowd said. “It was changed because the police chief said there were too many close calls.”
Jeweler Tom Harris, who advocated for the two-way street years ago, would prefer the street be one way from Ventnor to Atlantic Avenue, so shoppers can easily access the parking lot.
As it stands now, someone driving on Ventnor Avenue looking for a parking space close to a business and finding none would have to go one block further make a turn, either left or right on Portland Avenue or New Haven Avenue, depending on the direction of travel, another turn onto Atlantic Avenue and yet a third turn onto Newport to access the parking lot.
Turning the flow of traffic from Ventnor Avenue to Atlantic Avenue would result in three consecutive streets going in the same direction, which could affect emergency response times for police, firefighters, and EMS calls.
“It’s not something we take lightly and there is a lot of conflicting emotions,” Kriebel said.
“We corrected the traffic to conform to the ordinance, so streets in that area go one way north, one way south, and so on, which is important for public safety vehicles to have access for emergencies,” Kriebel said. “It has never been a safe street. There are many ‘almost’ accidents. It is almost foreseeable that there will be one someday, and since public safety is our number one concern, we are obligated to make it safe.”
The city promised way-finding signage to direct motorists to the parking lot, but they have yet to be installed, although the city did install ‘Do Not Enter’ and ‘One Way’ signs in the appropriate locations. It also painted arrows on the surface of the roadway.
Kriebel said the only way to safely accommodate two-way traffic on Newport Avenue would be to remove more than 10 metered on-street parking spaces that each generate about $5,000 in revenue for the city, which already has a shortage of parking spaces to accommodate the summer crowds.
At their last meeting, the Board of Commissioners said they would “circle back” and talk to more business owners before they announce a decision before Memorial Day.
Kriebel said the city would again meet with business owners and the police chief to discuss the issue and what can be done to ensure public safety and the convenience of shoppers.
Chances are, no one will be totally satisfied with the decision.
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