New London provides 250 spaces in garage downtown to address EB parking problem

New London — The city and Electric Boat have signed a lease that will allow up to 250 Electric Boat employee cars to park in the downtown Water Street Parking Garage, at least through the summer.

“It is a tentative lease, so it will start as a trial period until September,” Kip Bochain, chairman of the Parking Commission, said Tuesday.

Though the sign at the entrance to the parking garage declares, “Welcome Electric Boat,” Bochain said the agreement will not take effect until EB irons out some details on its end. He said he expects employees to begin parking in the garage “shortly.”

Last month, a group of people who live and work near the Electric Boat campus complained to the City Council that Pequot Avenue was becoming dangerous because of parking on both sides of the street during the day. Customers were unable to find parking to patronize businesses there, business owners said.

Following those complaints, the City Council approved a resolution that encouraged the Parking Commission and the city administration to work cooperatively with Electric Boat to find a solution.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

In addition to addressing the concerns of those who live near EB’s facilities, Bochain said the agreement will help alleviate some traffic congestion in the city.

“Obviously, it will also help with the traffic on Bank Street at 4 in the afternoon,” he said.

A shuttle bus, similar to those that ferry EB employees to work from other parking lots, will carry the employees the roughly 1.5 miles from the garage to the EB campus.

“They’re going to have a pick-up there out front of the garage,” Bochain said. “But I think EB is still working out those details.”

The Water Street garage can accommodate 920 vehicles. Employees from various downtown businesses, office workers and downtown residents park in the garage. It is also used by those taking the ferries and mass transit. Monthly rates are between $52 and $69.

Bochain said the city gave EB “a little bit of a discount” because of the number of cars that will be parking in the garage, but that they’ll be paying “close to the rack rate.” He said he couldn’t recall the exact rate.

Adequate parking became a problem for Electric Boat almost immediately after it bought the 33-acre campus in 2010 from Pfizer Inc. It had been the pharmaceutical giant’s Global Research and Development headquarters, which had employed fewer than 2,000 workers. There are about 3,000 EB workers in the buildings now. The company provides on-site parking at a garage on Pequot Avenue and in adjacent parking lots. A regular shuttle service from the Groton campus also transports workers to New London, but many workers park on the streets around the New London campus.

Bochain said he expects discussions with EB to be ongoing, as both sides assess the feasibility and effectiveness of the recently signed agreement.

“We’ll see how everything goes. We’re not going to leave ourselves short on parking,” he said.

c.young@theday.com

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