Parking, two-way streets under discussion

By Staff
POSSIBLE CHANGES Some Meridian city councilmen and business owners favor opening downtown streets to two-way traffic and eliminating timed parking. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Chris Allen Baker / staff writer
March 14, 2002
When people head to downtown Meridian for an appointment at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Center on 22nd Avenue they sometimes return to their cars to find parking tickets on the windshield.
And even though HealthSouth usually covers the cost of the tickets about $25 a month staff members there say the city's limited, timed, downtown parking creates a problem.
For years, Meridian managed downtown parking with parking meters. The city ditched parking meters and placed signs at parking spots, limiting parking in 30-minute to two-hour increments.
While some business owners don't like the current system, others love it. Joyce Arrington, owner of Joyce's Etc., supports ticketing cars parked for extended periods of time.
Other points of view
Gil Carmichael, a fixture in state and local politics, said he believes unlimited parking would help revitalize downtown.
Carmichael owns Missouth Development, two former parking garages that are now storage buildings on Eighth and Fourth streets, the Terminal Hotel on Front Street, a drive-in bank, an office building on Front Street and his own business office in the downtown area.
He recently suggested that the city stop issuing parking tickets for six months and see what happens.
That's not all, Carmichael said. He believes making all downtown streets two-way and placing stop signs on most corners would also help attract visitors to downtown Meridian.
Meridian city leaders said they are willing to re-examine downtown traffic and parking. Mayor John Robert Smith said he and the city council are reviewing the matter.
One possible help: A $7 million downtown parking garage expected to start construction this year. The garage is designed to complement the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center and ease downtown parking problems.
About two-way streets
Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith, whose territory includes downtown, said he likes the idea of converting one-way streets into two-way streets. Downtown doesn't need one-way streets, he said.
But Ward 4 Councilman Jesse Palmer Sr. said he likes things the way they are. He said he opposes two-way streets because, "The traffic flow is sufficient. It would cause too much confusion … to change it."
Jimmy Kemp, Meridian's mayor from 1985 to 1995, said 22nd and 23rd avenues became one-way during his administration.
That change, Kemp said, helped improve traffic flow through the heart of the city. Plus, he said, "More parking was possible by making spaces at angles instead of parallel."
Kemp said other two-way streets became one-way streets before he was elected.
Carmichael suggested that allowing two-way traffic on downtown streets would help fuel consumption and keep more people downtown stimulating economic growth.
Mayor Smith agreed.
Downtown Parking Committee
Harry Mayer, a member of the Downtown Parking Committee and Downtown Merchants Association, said he favors two-way streets.
Mayer supports tickets to enforce timed parking zones, which he said make parking spaces more accessible. Mayer said the new parking garage will also be an asset.
Ward, Palmer and other council members said they want to discuss the issue before making any changes. They also want to see how the downtown parking garage affects the problem.
Archie Anderson, who works downtown as an executive vice president of Trustmark National Bank, said business owners must join in the discussion.