Aldermen OK traffic study aimed at slowing down traffic, creating more parking spaces

Published 3:50 am Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Would two-way traffic on downtown streets slow down vehicles and create a safer environment for pedestrians and drivers?

Would continuing the one-way flow of traffic on downtown streets, but cutting down to one lane from the current two lanes of traffic allow for diagonal parking, which would create more parking spaces and be safer?

The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen hope to get answers to those questions and more from a traffic study approved Tuesday.

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The board voted 5 to 1 — Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier voted nay — to spend $39,000 with Volkert Engineering to conduct a traffic study on downtown streets.

“We have our upcoming micro-seal project downtown, so if this is something you are interested in doing, now may be the time,” said Justin Dollar, the city’s public works director.

Dollar said the traffic study goes hand-in-hand with the city’s downtown master plan, which calls for finding ways to make downtown safer and more inviting for pedestrians and those living and working downtown by slowing down traffic. And the study would also recommend ways to create additional parking spaces downtown.

“The study would put together a bunch of scenarios and offer the pros and cons of each,” Dollar said.

“Didn’t we do a traffic study once before, maybe a year ago?” asked Frazier.

“No,” Dollar said. “We have talked about it a number of times, but have not done one with this downtown master plan.”

Ward 6 Alderman Curtis Moroney said the traffic study would benefit the city.

“I would imagine they would study traffic patterns and parking and the speed of traffic. I would imagine it would benefit us,” Moroney said. Parallel parking on Main and Franklin streets can be a dangerous venture for those entering or exiting vehicles because of the speed of vehicles zooming past, he said.

“I’m not saying (diagonal parking) is a good idea, but that’s why we do this traffic study. It would tell us you have X number of parking spaces now and if you do this new plan, you will end up with Y new parking spaces,” he said.

Dollar said the study would be conducted in six steps and the public would be able to weigh in with thoughts and ideas during one of those steps.

Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater-Irving asked if business owners, specifically, would have an opportunity to be heard during the study. “We need their input,” she said.

“This will be a comprehensive report,” Dollar said.

The area to be studied includes Main and Franklin streets from MLK to Broadway and all cross streets within that area.

“I thought we were going to have a parking garage downtown,” Frazier commented, which drew snickers from Mayor Dan Gibson and other aldermen.

“I did, too,” the mayor replied, drawing more chuckles.

Gibson said the study would consider, too, how deliveries are made to downtown businesses.

“Our downtown merchants have to get deliveries and traffic has to keep moving at the same time,” he said.