By Betsy Cribb
The City of Lexington temporarily removed 58 parking spaces on Washington Street in preparation for upcoming construction on the Nelson Street bridge. The bridge will be demolished and then rebuilt, starting Feb. 5.
Seventy-eight years of wear and tear on the bridge have made it unsafe, and Lexington Public Works ordered construction of a new bridge.
Diverting traffic around the bridge will cause new safety and traffic issues for Lexington residents.
East Nelson Street will be closed between Randolph and Davidson streets for the next 10 months. Washington Street will become the main road through Lexington until December, when construction is expected to be complete.
Lexington Police Capt. Bucky Miller said allowing parking on both sides of Washington Street would make the street too narrow for large trucks and the anticipated increase in traffic.
“Washington Street is tight with parking on both sides if two SUVs come by, so there really was no choice other than to remove parking,” Miller said.
Lexington City Council created a parking committee in 2010 to come up with a solution.
The parking committee included Miller, local business owners, representatives of the city’s tourism department, public works employees and representatives of Washington and Lee University.
The committee examined traffic flow to decide which parking spaces to remove.
Some spaces on both sides of Washington Street, starting near Estill Street and ending by the W&L Graham-Lees freshman dorm, have been removed.
Miller said that W&L students, who have other places to park, use most of those spaces because they are more convenient than the university’s parking deck.
John Morman is a member of the parking committee and owns Celtic Tides, a shop on West Nelson Street.
He acknowledged that the parking changes would cause problems for businesses.
“There are people who are used to coming into Lexington and if they literally cannot park in front of the store they want to go into, then they’ll just go home,” Morman said.
Bridge construction will also cause problems for those who live on and around Nelson Street. Going over the bridge is the quickest route into downtown Lexington if approaching the city from the east.
Residents will now have to take a longer route, using Davidson or Randolph streets.
At least one exception was made to the new parking restrictions. Churchgoers will be allowed to park in front of R. E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church on Sundays and for funerals. The church faces Washington Street at Lee Avenue.
Miller said the parking committee’s primary concern was safety.
Students in the past have often walked out from between parked cars on Washington Street, he said, causing near collisions. The removal of the Washington Street parking will lower this risk, Miller said.
“I’m hoping that people like some of what we do and that some of this parking never comes back,” Miller said.