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Parking for court raises objections; Lack of free sites, handicapped spots.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - City officials have concluded that sufficient parking will be available downtown to serve the new Worcester Trial Court building on Main Street.

But the City Council is concerned about the inadequate number of handicapped parking spaces for the facility.

Councilors pointed out that only two handicapped parking spaces, both in front of the building on Main Street, have been designated for it. District 5 Councilor Frederick C. Rushton said that it is woefully inadequate because at least 18 people with disabilities work at the courthouse.

"The state spent millions of dollars building a handicapped accessible building, but did nothing to provide parking for those people with disabilities," Mr. Rushton said. "Two (handicapped parking) spots in front of the courthouse on Main Street isn't going to get the job done."

In anticipation of the opening of the new courthouse, the city's Department of Public Works and Parks reviewed the available downtown parking supply and concluded there should be enough parking spaces to accommodate those who will be using and working at the facility.

Robert L. Moylan Jr., commissioner of public works and parks, said the net available parking for courthouse employees is 695 to 945 spaces (both free and for a fee). Those figures do not take into account privately owned lots and garages that will also be available for parking for a fee.

Mr. Moylan said the Major Taylor Boulevard Garage alone can provide 250 to 500 spaces daily.

He added that 344 free parking spaces at the existing courthouse property will still be made available to court employees for the time being. In addition, there are 101 curbside meters on Main and State streets.

"We want to separate fact from fiction," Mr. Moylan said. "The perception out there is that there's going to be a parking shortage because that is what a lot of people talked about while the courthouse was being built.

"But nothing in our review suggests there will be a parking deficit," the commissioner added. "There is no shortage of parking; the issue is the lack of free parking. There are numerous private parking facilities with available parking for a fee that could serve the courthouse. All of these facilities are within 1,000 feet of the courthouse and therefore deemed to be within reasonable distance."

Mr. Moylan said the city has had to estimate the anticipated parking demand for the new courthouse because the state Department of Capital Asset Management was unable to provide such a figure.

To come up with its estimate, the commissioner said, the city identified 633 parking spaces that have been used for the old courthouse. Those include the 344 spaces on the courthouse property, 23 spaces in front of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium, 93 spaces in the Highland Street municipal parking lot, and 173 curbside parking meter spaces on Main, Harvard and State streets.

Mr. Moylan said the number of spaces used for the old courthouse can be scaled back a bit because the Registry of Deeds is not moving into the new courthouse and has instead relocated to the food court of the former Worcester Common Outlets mall.

"Given the information that we have, namely a parking supply that will range between approximately 700 to 950 spaces, and a demand that is estimated to be about 600 spaces, there appears to be adequate parking to meet the needs of the new courthouse for the next year," Mr. Moylan said.

While there appears to be sufficient parking available, Mr. Rushton pointed out that many court employees will have to bear the financial burden of paying to park. He said some employees will have to pay as much as $3,000 a year for their parking.

"It's an unfair burden for these employees, especially those who make no more than $25,000 a year," Mr. Rushton said. "This was poor planning by the state. The state government plopped a regional justice center in the middle of the downtown without planning for parking and, as a result, we've had to bear the brunt of identifying parking for it."

Councilor-at-Large Joseph M. Petty also questioned why the city was being criticized regarding the parking for the new courthouse when it played no role in its planning. He said if anyone is to blame, it is the state.

The council Tuesday night also held for one week recommended changes to on-street parking in the area of the new courthouse. Police officials had requested that the south side of Thomas Street, from Main to Commercial streets, be reserved for police vehicles from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Councilors said the city may want to look at providing police vehicle parking elsewhere, so that part of Thomas Street can be used to provide more handicapped parking spaces.

ART: MAP

CUTLINE: Worcester courthouse parking options

PHOTOG: T&G Staff
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 20, 2007
Words:811
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