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Council approves limiting vehicles during June

Details to be worked out after consulting with businesses, public safety
By Stephen Betts | May 11, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell speaks via Zoom during the May 11 City Council meeting.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council approved Monday night a concept plan to close a section of downtown Main Street during June to allow for greater pedestrian access to shops and restaurants.

The times and lengths of the closures are not confirmed. Councilors stressed the vote gives the city manager the authority to close Main Street from Park Street to Glover's Passage during June. But before a final decision is made by the manager, he will meet with a task force that will include public safety officials and downtown business owners and employees.

The vote may scale back the original plan of closing the street for the entire month after several downtown merchants expressed concern about the closure impact could have on deliveries and curbside pick-ups.

Councilor Nate Davis said this was a once in a generation opportunity to re-envision how society is constructed, including its streets. He said designing a city around cars was a terrible idea.

He said what is being considered in Rockland is not exotic, but is being done around the country and world. Davis said whatever plan is approved would allow shops to get deliveries.

Councilor Ben Dorr said this should be considered a first step of making Main Street more pedestrian friendly. He agreed the city should get more input from downtown representatives to avoid a blow back similar to what occurred when the Council tried to change residential zoning.

Councilor Valli Geiger said she supports the concept of closing downtown to vehicle traffic. She said the COVID-19 problem could be around for a year to three years until a vaccine is created. She said there will be less traffic from out-of-state tourists this summer, and this proposal would allow the downtown to attract people to shops and restaurants.

The idea of closing the street was offered by Mayor Lisa Westkaemper to give merchants and restaurants an opportunity to sell products or serve customers on sidewalks, thus allowing more physical distancing than is available inside the buildings.

Councilor Ed Glaser voted for the measure, but said Rockland has one Main Street and unlike Burlington, Vermont, Seattle or New York City, it does not have other parallel adjacent streets that have traffic going in the same direction.

"I'd rather dip our toes in the water rather than close Main Street for all of June," Glaser said.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said the Maine Department of Transportation is supportive of the city's plan, but with some conditions. The state agency will not allow for Union Street to have two-way traffic. Signage would also be required to re-direct traffic.

Rockland Main Street Inc. Executive Director David Gogel said a majority of downtown businesses support some form of vehicle closure during June, possibly limited to Friday nights and weekends. Gogel said business owners have a lot on their mind, such as meeting state requirements for re-opening.

There were several downtown business representatives voicing concern about the proposal. Heidi Neal, co-owner of Loyal Biscuit, sent an email to the city, saying the closure for the entire month would interfere with curbside service that is an important part of the business, and would interfere with scheduled deliveries.

Ann Hoppe of Puffin's Nest also sent in an email in opposition to a June closure of Main Street.

Lisa Gundel of Key Bank in Rockland said a closure would impact the ability of customers to use the drive-through at the bank.

The street plan calls for the following:

  • Orient Street shall be one-way westerly from Main Street to Union Street.
  • Oak Street shall be one-way easterly from Union Street to Main Street. The two eastern-most parking spaces of the municipal parking lot between Oak Street and Orient Street shall be marked “No Parking” to provide vehicular access from Oak Street to Orient Street to reverse direction back to Union Street.
  • Jersey Barriers shall be placed at the intersection of Park and Main so no vehicular traffic will be allowed to travel north on Route 1.
  • Route 1 detour signs will be placed directing traffic onto Broadway, Route 1 by-pass.
  • Jersey Barriers will be installed at each side street/driveway entering or exiting Main Street, both easterly and westerly from Orient Street to Limerock Street.
  • Elm Street shall be open to two-way traffic to allow access to and from properties on that street.
  • Limerock Street shall be open to two-way traffic to allow access to the Post Office. Vehicles should use the Post Office Parking Lot to reverse direction back to Union Street.
  • Glover’s Passage will be one-way traffic from Thorndike Parking Lot west to Main Street.
  • Deliveries to businesses on the east side of Main Street shall be made from the Thorndike parking lot or the Winter Street parking lot.
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Comments (14)
Posted by: Melissa Byer | May 14, 2020 22:55

Wow is all I can say and that is not a good thing!



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | May 14, 2020 11:48

JGM... thanks for the love...bring on the parking. Had my roof shingled last fall and have tons of roofing nails for parking control.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | May 14, 2020 11:44

Rick Winslow, now you know common sense will not prevail. My wife wanted to know what people do with the wooden baskets and do dads in a shop window. I told you could always use them in the fire pit. Rick, we may not be a big city but we sure do have a lot of big city brainstorming go on. I was kinda hoping they'd block Main at Thomaston Street.



Posted by: Christopher Fowles | May 14, 2020 10:52

Come on people! Its going to be a Fairyland at Christmas! So excited!



Posted by: Rick Winslow | May 14, 2020 10:23

Francis Mazzeo, don't let them block your driveway!

I've been to Burlington and seen Church Street firsthand. It's not US Route 1 through the city. If Union Street is prevented from 2-way traffic, we might as well put a Rockland detour sign at Route 90 so people travelling north and east bypass the bottleneck it will become. Even less for the merchants of Rockland in the long run.

Parking has always been a problem on Main Street and the City has reconfigured it many times over the years. There was once talk of a walking path to be made which resulted in a (crooked) blue paint line marked on the sidewalks of downtown. Is this the 2020 Crooked Blue Line in Rockland?

Rockland is not Burlington. It's not NYC. Boston, or Acadia. It's 'smack dab' in the middle of the Coast of Maine and now there will be a fence drawn around it. Sure would be great for pedestrians, but it's not sunny summertime, all the time. Next you'll be using golf carts for transportation downtown. Might as well move Main Street to Route 90.

 



Posted by: Joanne Lee Richards | May 12, 2020 15:52

This has been talked about before and I am very pleased to see the idea coming to fruition. In the city of Burlington VT Church Street has been pedestrian only for decades and it is wonderful! Side streets still cross through but no traffic at all is allowed on Church St which is full of wonderful restaurants and shops. At Christmas time it is a fairyland of lights and decorations. I think this should be permanent!



Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | May 12, 2020 12:23

Kendall:

There is always parking on side streets west of Union Street. I live on Grove Street - always empty spaces - and just a short walk to Main Street.


We could create more handicap spaces at the Custom House parking lot and the lot behind Rock City to make walking or wheeling to Main Street more accessible.

 



Posted by: Gayle Murphy | May 12, 2020 12:00

We’re all going to park up and down the side of South Main Street in front of Francis Mazzeo’s house!  Sorry, Francis . . . Love ‘ya man, but I couldn’t resist.

 

JGM



Posted by: Kendall Merriam | May 12, 2020 10:00

Most cities which have done this are cities with public transportation. Not everyone can walk to Rockland's downtown. Where would people park their cars to walk Main Street? Given that Maine's COVID-19 cases are reported by Maine CDC as the most active since the March outbreak, this seems like an idea that could spur community spread..



Posted by: ananur forma | May 12, 2020 09:52

I'm wishing abundance for all, as crazy as that may sound, still wishing for that. Very appreciative of what Lynn Archer created for our community. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of The City thinking about how to save downtown, not sure this is realistic... am open to finding out. Am very concerned about the economics and businesses may go bankrupt, very sad thought. don't want to entertain such thoughts. Wanting everyone to wear masks not just some of us. Please wear a mask or get one, make one. thank you.



Posted by: Sam Charlton | May 12, 2020 09:26

After so many weeks of shops being closed and people seeking other ways of purchasing their goods, this plan makes commerce for Main Street merchants more difficult.



Posted by: Heidi Ruth Locke | May 12, 2020 08:17

Concept



Posted by: Heidi Ruth Locke | May 12, 2020 08:17

Concept



Posted by: Heidi Ruth Locke | May 12, 2020 08:16

A map of the new area traffic & open space would be nice to visualize the concert! Outside the box thinking! Love the idea:-)



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