New London parking garage gets boost in business
New London — Electric Boat temporarily boosted its presence in the only city-owned parking garage this month, reserving an additional 150 spots in a garage that at one point this week reached capacity.
New London Parking Director Carey Redd said the garage only reached capacity because plows had not yet cleared snow off of the top level, a problem that already has been rectified.
He said he is monitoring the situation, but numbers show that on any given day during the winter months, there are about 600 vehicles parked in the garage — well below its 995-space capacity.
A fleet of police vehicles also temporarily has been parking in the garage.
EB, which is already the Water Street Garage’s largest permanent client, had 250 spaces reserved. The additional 150 spots were reserved for the winter months until April 1.
The influx of EB employees comes even as the city opened 300 spaces in an on-street parking permit program instituted last year in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. The program was part of an overall plan to ease traffic concerns in nearby neighborhoods and alleviate haphazard parking in the area. The program led to more vehicles in the garage.
About 100 EB employees pay the $60 monthly fee out of their own pocket for on-street parking in the Fort Trumbull area, whereas EB is paying for the garage spaces, along with providing parking in New London and Groton and shuttle buses from both New London and Groton parking areas. The monthly rate at the parking garage is $52.
The city is looking at funding sources for a plan to expand the garage by 400 spaces in anticipation of the need when the National Coast Guard Museum is built. The museum is expected to bring in a half-million people to the city in its first year.
The parking authority also is in preliminary talks with local business owner Bill Cornish for a partnership at his garage on Governor Winthrop Boulevard, which contains 450 spaces.
Parking Authority Chairman Kip Bochain said the overall boost in people coming to the city gives credence to the idea of adding a parking garage in the Fort Trumbull area. Bochain said any plans for a garage likely would have to include a commitment from EB or other large patron.
“The city is not going to put up a parking garage and not have it covered with a long-term rental contract. We don’t have the money to do that,” he said.
Redd said the city has contracted with civil and environmental engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill to conduct a traffic study in the area of Howard Street, near EB’s facility, to gauge the volume of traffic flowing out into downtown at any given hour. Redd said he will continue to conduct studies at the Water Street Garage and across New London as he works toward an overall parking plan, which is likely to include meters in the downtown area.
Redd said he also is planning for an uptick in Cross Sound Ferry customers at the Water Street Garage during the summer. He said he is exploring the idea of converting the entrance on Atlantic Street into an exit during peak times.
Bochain expressed great confidence in Redd to analyze and handle what historically has been something of a chaotic parking situation in the city.
Redd, who also is president of the New England Parking Council, has been performing studies in the city since he first was hired by Mayor Michael Passero last year. He recently unveiled parking kiosks in the newly redesigned downtown municipal parking lots.
Redd said he holds to the “best practices” style of management, trying to ease parking concerns without unduly penalizing residents and visitors to the city. During the recent snow storms, the Water Street Garage remained open free of charge for several days.
Revenue from parking is vital to the city, but Redd said "putting a good face on New London" is perhaps even more important.
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