Traffic Board Approves Market St. Handicapped Parking

Aerial satellite photo of Market Street and Fribley Field. (Map via Google)

Warsaw Traffic Safety Commission decided to move forward with putting two handicapped-parking spaces on East Market Street near Fribley Field despite two members voting against it.

The handicapped spots have been a topic for the commission for several meetings, mostly surrounding whether to put the parking places on the street or in an off-road maintenance lane used by the Parks Department.

After conversations with Warsaw Parks Superintendent Larry Plummer, who said he’d rather keep the maintenance lane open for his staff, the commission decided to go with the on-street parking.

Two handicapped spaces will be designated – one by Fribley Field and the other near the shopping plaza.

Mayor Joe Thallemer said there is no requirement to put in the handicapped spaces, but rather the city is taking into consideration requests from residents in the area and from the parks department for people who may visit the park.

Jeff Beeler, Warsaw Street Department superintendent, voted against the decision, citing the narrowness of Market Street.

“I’m nervous about putting a handicapped spot in a narrow road without having it laid out the way a handicapped spot should be,” Beeler said of his vote. “I have concerns that by just throwing paint on the ground, if something were to happen it would be stated was this handicapped spot designed to be a handicapped spot, and our answer will have to be no, it was not.”

Beeler said people who might need to get a wheelchair or other equipment out of their vehicle would have to open their door  to unload it, essentially cutting off an entire lane of traffic on narrow Market Street. He also expressed concerns about the sloping and grading of the area, saying a flat surface should be around the parking space so, for example, a wheelchair wouldn’t roll away once it got unloaded.

“If someone needs to park close, you know, they park there then that’s great for them, but for the city to designate it for that specific use but it’s not necessarily designed for that, I just think it opens up a door and it’s a double-edged sword,” Beeler said.

After hearing Beeler’s concerns, Jack Wilhite changed his original yes vote to a no.

“That is a concern I had not thought about,” Wilhite said, suggesting that before the street department implements or does anything with the spaces, a better look should be had in regard to the best locations.

“I think the intention of the traffic commission is clear that we want handicapped spaces on Market Street,” Thallemer said. “My suggestion would be to take this vote and then look for the appropriate spots as far as the grade and the width somewhere along that area, and if so then that’s where we’ll put them, and if not, we’ll have to revisit that issue. Let’s do a little research to see if there are spots that could be modified to become handicapped spaces along there.”

City Planner Jeremy Skinner, who is also the city’s ADA coordinator, said there are no design requirements for handicapped spaces located on the street.

“So, there wouldn’t be any necessarily requirements that we are not meeting because there are no requirements,” Skinner said, referencing the grading and sloping concerns. “The design requirements are for off-street parking, not for on-street parking.”

The handicapped spaces passed 7-2.

At the beginning of the meeting, Thallemer swore in David Allbritten as a member of the commission. Allbritten is a citizen appointee from Thallemer’s office and has a law enforcement background, Thallemer said.

Allbritten said he and his wife have lived in Warsaw since 1993, have two sons and he recently completed 32 years of government service in the South Bend area.

Another topic on the commission’s agenda Wednesday afternoon was an email Thallemer received from a citizen requesting two more school zone crosswalk signs in front of Lakeview Middle School at Scott Street.

There is already one sign in place facing both lanes of traffic, but the citizen would like another sign on the other side of the road, facing both lanes. In other words, two signs facing each way instead of just one sign facing each way.

The commission decided to approve to move forward with the signs.

Another topic was the street parking happening on Pine Cone Lane, a cul de sac located in the first housing addition off Husky Trail. Commission member Cindy Dobbins said a resident of the neighborhood contacted her expressing concerns about parking on both sides of the street, causing problems for emergency vehicles like fire trucks and so forth to get through.

Beeler said getting through that street to collect garbage or remove snow has been difficult for his crew many times.

Skinner said right now the city does not have any regulations in subdivisions.

The commission decided Dobbins will try to reach out to the neighborhood homeowners’ association, if there is one, and have the city attorney be involved in conversations around the concern.

Wilhite said he received an email from a woman who would like to know if a traffic light could be put at Fisher Avenue and Kincaide Street.

Nearly everyone on the traffic commission agreed that traffic gets backed up in that area several times throughout the day, noting it’s not just a problem when school is letting out.

However, because Ind. 15 is a state road, it would be a decision and project by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Discussion among the traffic commission at one point went to a possible roundabout being put there, but again, it would be up to INDOT.

The city could reach out to INDOT and ask them to take a look at the area and conduct a traffic study and voice concerns to INDOT that residents have.

While it may be a busy area, Warsaw Police Department Capt. Joel Beam said in the last five years only eight crashes have happened there, and all of those crashes were property damage accidents and nothing serious.

The next traffic safety commission meeting is 1 p.m. June 3 at City Hall.