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South Baker parking solution
By JAYSON JACOBY
Of the Baker City Herald
Officials from Baker City and the Baker School District will try a new angle to unravel the traffic maze that sometimes clogs streets next to South Baker Elementary.
Angle parking, to be specific.
The City Council voted Tuesday to contribute $5,000 toward an estimated $25,000 project that will add seven or eight parking spaces along Third Street, which parallels the east side of the school.
The Oregon Department of Transportation will pay 60 percent of the cost, up to $15,000, City Attorney Tim Collins told the council.
South Baker's Parents-in-Education (PIE) organization also has pledged $5,000, Collins said.
City crews will widen a section of Third Street to make room for angle parking instead of the parallel parking available now, he said.
Workers will not need to fell any trees or remove the sidewalk, said South Baker Principal Pat Braswell, who devised the angle parking plan.
Braswell said widening Third Street will cost less than another option school and ODOT officials have considered: Buying the vacant Third and Dewey market, razing the structure and building a parking lot in its place.
That would create nine or 10 new parking spaces, he said.
Although city officials have not decided when workers will start widening Third Street, Braswell said there might be time to at least carve out the angle-parking area and spread gravel there before snow flies.
The parking spots would be available immediately, and crews could then pave the area next year, he said.
Collins said city workers probably would start this fall if school officials decide they can deal with the clamor of heavy equipment and the temporary loss of all parking on that section of Third Street for a week or so.
Although among local schools only Baker High School boasts a surplus of off-street parking, the shortage is especially acute around South Baker.
The school is bordered on the east by Dewey Avenue, to the south by the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, and to the west and north by residential neighborhoods.
Braswell said 30 to 32 school employees drive to work each day.
"We've been seeking off-street parking for some time," he said. "It's just one part of our concerns about the lack of parking, narrow streets, and pedestrian safety around the school."
Maria Voboril, president of the South Baker PIE group, said the Third Street angle-parking project was first proposed about about two years ago.
She's confident the addition of extra parking spaces will help alleviate traffic congestion around the school.
But extra parking spaces aren't the only benefits from widening Third Street, Braswell said.
The project also will give drivers more room to maneuver.
That section of Third Street is none too wide now, Braswell said, and driving there is especially nerve-racking when cars are parallel-parked, bumper to bumper, on both sides of the street, the usual scenario during school hours.
Third Street between Dewey Avenue and Grace Street will retain its one-way configuration, with northbound travel only.