Cars win out over trucks in Frederick crackdown

November 23, 1990|By Thom Loverro | Thom Loverro,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

FREDERICK -- Traditionally, the holiday sights and sounds of downtown Frederick's historic district have been a mixture of Christmas cheer, rumbling and grumbling.

The cheer is created by the ambience of shopping in the city's specialty shops. The rumbling has been the sound of dozens of trucks making deliveries to merchants.

The grumbling has been from motorists, forced to weave in and out of the double-parked trucks or stuck behind trucks in an irritating traffic jam.

Now, city officials have delivered an early Christmas present to frustrated downtown drivers with a new law that prohibits double-parking on Market Street, one of the city's main thoroughfares.

Police are issuing warnings to violators, but starting Dec. 1, it will be illegal to double-park. Delivery drivers will face a $35 fine if caught.

"We had a traffic situation that was not working, and we had many complaints from people who came into town about how hard it was to get around," Mayor Paul P. Gordon said.

The new parking regulations create loading zones on each block. Drivers will be able to park free in the loading zone and are encouraged to make deliveries between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.

The city had allowed double-parking on Market Street in the left lane of the one-way street, which has two lanes for traffic.

"But we found that trucks were parking in both lanes, so drivers had to dodge them from one side of the street to the other," the mayor said.

In Frederick, few alleys are available behind the downtown stores for deliveries.

The new law exempts oil deliveries, but those deliveries will be discouraged between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., a busy time downtown during the week, Mr. Gordon said. Most of those deliveries will be made before 10 a.m., he said.

The parking plan was presented to city officials by the Greater Frederick Development Corp., a group of downtown business people.

"We felt that the property owners and business people downtown should be involved in a solution to the problem so, at our urging, they initiated the recommendations," Mr. Gordon said.

Archie E. Rogers Jr., owner of Rogers Office Supply & Equipment on North Market Street and a board member of the Greater Frederick Development Corp., is a strong supporter of the new regulations.

"I think it's super," he said. "We've been getting comments in our store about 10-to-1 in favor of it. People can get through the city faster now."

Mr. Rogers said the new rules came at an opportune time, as downtown Frederick was trying to attract holiday shoppers.

"We want people to know they can get here now," he said.

Some Market Street merchants were not so thrilled.

"I think it stinks," said Jack Friedman, owner of Earle's Shoes. "What do you do when you have more than one truck at a time in the area? There's only room for one truck. They have to double-park. What are they going to do, keep circling around the block until the space opens up?"

Mr. Friedman has been operating his store in downtown Frederick since 1955. He usually gets deliveries once a week, and he insists that double-parking along Market Street is just part of doing business and will not go away.

"I've been here for 35 years and have seen them try all kinds of gimmicks," he said. "They're not going to get rid of double-parking."

He thinks that if the city makes it too hard for trucking companies to make deliveries in Frederick, it may be harder to get service.

"[Trucking companies] could wind up just eliminating Frederick," said.

That fear was cited by another merchant, Greg Blair, owner of the Starving Artist Cafe. Mr. Blair said he had heard that beer distributors had threatened to force restaurant and bar owners to pick up their or ders, instead of delivering, if the new law created problems for their drivers.

"This could turn into a real mess," he said.

Gene Keyser, manager of Erwin and Shafer beer distributors in Frederick, which services many of the downtown restaurants, said they had no plans to stop deliveries.

"It hasn't gotten that bad yet," he said.

But out-of-town deliverers may become frustrated enough to take such steps, he said.

"It has been a headache for us," Mr. Keyser said. "We've had drivers . . . drive around the block four or five times to get a space."

Mr. Blair said his milk-truck driver had encountered a similar problem trying to find a place to park near the cafe.

"I'm willing to give it a chance to see how it works, but I don't think you can avoid double-parking down here," Mr. Blair said.

Mr. Gordon said he had heard complaints from some merchants.

"This proposal is not locked in concrete," he said. "We can massage those areas that need massaging until we get it where it works for most people."

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