As the legislators return, so does parking squeeze

Push for new garage runs into opposition

January 11, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The nightmare of finding parking in downtown Annapolis during the legislative session is back.

It returned with the start of the 90-day session yesterday. Parking garages are packed by early morning, and on-street parking is scarce.

While spaces are open at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium lot, it's a hard sell because of the shuttle ride to downtown. But the jam could force cars there anyway.

"After 7:30 a.m., they may as well go straight to the stadium," said Tonya Fowlkes, assistant manager for the Whitmore Garage off Calvert Street. "There's no use coming into town, because we're full."

Wes Jones of Annapolis knows how hard it can be to find parking. After two years of living in the city, he checks his regular spots, and usually, his "parking karma is pretty good," he said. But that wasn't the case yesterday.

He drove to a garage, down alleys and side streets and finally to the metered spots at the City Dock where he found a space.

John LaTulippe, owner of Celtic Treasures in Annapolis, said he had to circle the block three times before he found a free space on the street yesterday morning. "We absolutely need more parking," he said.

Two state delegates think the solution is to build another parking garage at Calvert and Bladen streets within steps of the State House.

Anne Arundel County Dels. Joan Cadden, a Democrat, and John R. Leopold, a Republican, think a parking garage close to government offices would best serve the public's needs.

"The goal is to provide parking for the people that pay the bills, namely the citizens who should have greater public access to the General Assembly, not only to testify but to witness the General Assembly in action," Leopold said.

The two have written to Peta N. Richkus, secretary of the Department of General Services, pushing for the garage, and Cadden is scheduled to meet with Richkus this morning.

Cadden said frustrated motorists often drive around for an hour to find a parking space and then have to leave the session to feed the meters. As a last resort, some leave their cars illegally on streets reserved for long-term residential parking and pay the ticket when their time limit expires, she said.

According to a Department of General Services report in October, if the state provided enough parking for its full-time and part-time employees, about 1,500 parking spaces would be opened up for the public.

The state owns or leases 2,761 parking spaces for about 3,400 full-time state employees who work in the Annapolis State Government Center. The state leases an additional 55 spaces during the session.

Some Annapolis elected officials, including Mayor Dean L. Johnson, balk at the idea of another garage, fearing it could bring more traffic into the Colonial town. "It brings the problem downtown," he said.

He recommended using the Navy stadium lot, which has about 4,200 public parking spaces. During the session, the shuttle runs from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every 15 to 20 minutes and every 10 minutes during rush hour.

State Sen. John C. Astle, an Annapolis Democrat, said he isn't convinced the city needs a parking garage for the session crunch. "I think it's worse during the boat show," he said.

Astle said he doubts residents would welcome a garage, pointing out that some opposed the construction of the Thomas V. Mike Miller Senate Office Building.

"There are battles over any kind of structure that is going in any way to change the [city's] character," he said.

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