By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — The city claims it will be as easy as 1-2-3 and that all you have to do is signal, stop, then reverse. But only time will tell if a change in the style of parking along Bailey Boulevard will be a good thing or result in as-of-yet unknown headaches.
As of tomorrow, drivers who park their vehicles along the north side of Bailey Boulevard will have more spaces to choose from and parking will still be free. But, instead of parallel parking, drivers will have to back into their spot, and at an angle to the roadway. Reverse angle parking, the first of its kind in the area, is coming to Haverhill. Mobile digital display screens set up along Bailey Boulevard have been informing drivers that the new plan goes into effect.
Public Works Director Michael Stankovich said it won’t be that much different from the current parallel parking method, which requires you to swing the front of your vehicle into the roadway before settling into a spot. And when it’s time to pull out, you have to turn your head quite a bit to see who’s coming.
“It’s really almost the same angle as parallel parking,” Stankovich said. “The big difference is when you pull out you’ll have a clear view of the road.”
Stankovich said “reverse angle” is considered a safer way to diagonal park by traffic experts. He said he recently visited Somerville to review reverse angle diagonal parking areas there.
Although it may be obvious to drivers as to how to back into a parking space, the city will have a “parking ambassador” there next week to answer questions.
The ambassador will also be distributing pamphlets - which are available at City Hall - showing diagrams of how to park.
“Since most of the people who park here are repeat customers we’ll be leaving informational fliers on their vehicles,” Stankovich said.
Each diagonal space along Bailey Boulevard will be a generous nine-feet wide, Stankovich said, or about a foot or so wider than spaces in many parking lots. He said this wider spacing should allow drivers in large vehicles ample room to maneuver.
“Once you’ve done it once, it becomes an old habit,” Stankovich said about his experience backing his sport utility vehicle into a spot in Somerville. “The parking officer I spoke to said people liked it once they understood how it worked.”
Stankovich said eight signs are being posted showing the new parking style. Line painting will take place today, depending on this weekend’s weather forecast, he said. In preparation for line painting, the city had most of the north side of Bailey Boulevard seal-coated in black so the painted white lines will be more visible.
The addition of 23 new spaces to the existing 60 spaces along the north side of Bailey Boulevard comes as a result of the city’s new paid parking program that went into effect last month. Mayor James Fiorentini has been urging commuters and those who work downtown form parking in the heart of the business district and instead park on peripheral roadways such as Bailey Boulevard where parking is free. So many drivers took his advice that on most days every space along Bailey Boulevard is taken. More spaces were needed and for Bailey Boulevard the only way to add spaces was to go with diagonal parking, where vehicles will be side by side to each other at an angle.
City Council approved the measure by a vote of 8-1, with Councilor William Macek the lone dissenter. Fiorentini said the city’s downtown parking consultant, Jason Schreiber of Nelson/Nygaard, recommended the idea.
Macek said the new parking method is untested and worries that some drivers, including those with large SUVs, may have trouble backing up.
“I think we face the risk of having a lot of side-swipe accidents,” he said. “This is one tweak to the paid parking plan that I don’t think is going to work out well.
“Overall, I think that creating a free parking ring on the outskirts of the downtown business district is totally inconvenient for people who are parking to go shopping, to the hairdressers or for other reasons,” Macek said yesterday. “Since paid parking started we’ve had the luxury of good weather. But as bad weather approaches, it’s wrong to have a parking plan that is not sensitive to those who are parking.”