After over a year of planning, Main Street has been changed back to its original design as a straight thoroughfare. And, thus far, the public response has been overwhelming positive. Not only has the street been “straightened” but parking is now back to the original parallel design as well.
These changes are part of a bigger and long range visioning plan (See Vision Morehead Facebook page) to make our downtown more pedestrian friendly. Part one was the changing of the four way traffic light at Battson-Oates and Main (near Pasquale’s) into an “all-way” stop. This was taken a step further to make a true four way stop to work in unison with the straightening of the street.
In addition, we have gained at least four additional parking spaces, including two additional handicap spaces, going from the required minimum of three to now five. The parking spaces are also now larger throughout, as we increased their length from the previous minimally required twenty feet to twenty-two feet for regular spaces up to twenty-four feet for handicapped. This will allow drivers the extra two foot cushion needed while re-learning to parallel park.
As with any major change, there arises questions of cost to the City, i.e. cost to the taxpayer. We assure you that the cost to the taxpayer was minimal. That part of Main Street was on its natural rotation to be re-paved this year and that money is annually provided to the City from the state in the form of Municipal Road Aid monies that is collected as part our state mandated gasoline tax. In addition, we received a $5,000 grant for the paint needed in striping the crosswalks and building the parking spaces. And the deconstruction of the islands was completed with our Public Works Department. We do have plans to put back a certain number of trees in large pots and flowers on or around the light poles. We are currently working with downtown businesses with a plan to allow for the trees to be purchased as memorial trees to honor loved ones who have made significant contributions to our community.
There have been many questions and comments on why the islands were ever put on Main Street to begin with, which resulted in the curvy nature of the street. I give credit the former Mayor Larry Breeze, his administration, and the City Council at the time for being forward-thinking in why they did what they did. The next time you make a trip through downtown, be sure to look up and notice that there are no overhead wires, cables or utility lines in the heart of the City. Mayor Breeze and Council wanted to take advantage of a grant for many reasons, including: in order to limit power outages caused by storms, to make utilities easier to work on with them all being contained in the same area and to make the downtown skyline much more aesthetically pleasing. Residents of downtown and in the city have enjoyed the results of this positive infrastructure change for many years and will for many years into the future. And, in order to satisfy the requirements of the grant that paid for all of this, there had to be streetscape enhancements made, i.e. the islands containing trees and flowers.
We feel that with the straightening of the street and the continued advantages of the underground utilities, we now have the best of both worlds that will have a lasting and positive impact on our downtown for years to come. In making Main Street easier to navigate as well as easier and safer to park, we believe that this will attract more folks back downtown either as shoppers, sightseers, passers through and, hopefully, people wanting to invest in our community.
If you would like to make a comment on the “new” Main Street, please email me at: [email protected].
Mayor Jim Tom Trent