PAW PAW, Mich. –Changes to the downtown streetscape for one Van Buren County community is causing quite the controversy.
Village officials say it’s only a test run but many drivers in Paw Paw are upset, concerned and frustrated over the new parking changes.
It took Holly Veldhoff some maneuvering and once she finally did she said she wasn’t a fan of Paw Paw’s new back in parking and she’s not alone, some local businesses agree.
Jessica Baugh at Café Sabo says the majority of people coming in have expressed their frustrations over it.
“Just this morning I saw four or five people trying to park and they just left because they couldn’t deal with it,” she said. “There was one guy saying he stopped like six cars trying to back in, this is light right now when schools in session come 3:00 whats going to happen?”
Among the changes, four lanes downtown cut to two and the addition of a bike lane.
Village Manager Larry Nielsen stresses it’s just a testing period and they’re hoping people will give it a chance.
He says “Communities with more traffic than Paw Paw have made road diets and downtown parking changes a success.”
But to make sure it works right for Paw Paw, he says its why they’re trying it out.
“All the traffic modeling we did with the traffic counts and the vehicles and all turning counts, all the traffic modeling says it all ought to work,” he said.
It’s actually apart of their 2009/2010 Master Plan to revitalize the downtown and bring people into the area to walk around, not just make it a place to drive through.
Nielsen says angle parking adds more spots and its safer than pull in with more visibility. “So that when people are pulling out they’re able to see bicyclists and on coming traffic,” he said.
But for some drivers, they’re concerned over the possible effects in the long run.
“The lights are already congested and now we have one lane that just goes east and west and when I-94 is backed up in winter there will be more congestion.”
Nielsen adds that timing of traffic signals will likely need adjusting to smooth traffic flow out.
Either way residents agree it is going to take a lot of getting used to. Nielsen says the testing period will run through at least winter and then they will revisit it to review.