By CASSIE SMITH
Officials with a San Antonio company will be in downtown Bryan on Friday to ask passersby their opinions about parking in the historic district.
Alliance Transportation Group will have a booth in front of the Palace Theatre from 5 to 10 p.m. during downtown's First Friday event. The Bryan City Council and The District hired the company for $85,000 to evaluate parking issues and propose solutions.
The study area is bound by Sims Street to the west, Texas Avenue to the east, 18th Street to the north and 29th Street to the south.
The firm's analysis will take into account a five-story, 1,012-space parking garage being built at the current main parking lot of the Brazos County Courthouse at Texas Avenue and 26th Street. The structure, which will cost nearly $15 million when complete, is being built by The District and will consist of two buildings with office and retail space.
The survey also will be available at www.bryantx.gov for six to eight weeks. Questions include how much time is spent downtown, how many businesses are typically visited, what parking patterns are like and what is considered an acceptable distance to walk from a parking spot to a destination.
The consultants are scheduled to present their findings to the City Council in late January.
John McBeth, general manager of The District, said construction will likely begin on the new parking garage within three weeks. The project was conceived in 2003, but funding and design issues caused delays, officials said. The project will be paid for almost exclusively by federal funds earmarked by U.S. Reps. Chet Edwards and John Carter, who represented Brazos County before a 2003 congressional redistricting put the area in Edwards' district.
McBeth said the project should take about 17 months to complete. The garage was originally projected to cost $22 million, but construction bids came in lower than expected, he said.
Dale Picha, Bryan's director of traffic and transportation, said a smaller study of an eight-block area of Main Street and Bryan Avenue found 90 to 95 percent of the area's parking spots were generally occupied.
"It's really trying to anticipate some short- and long-term problems we might be dealing with between the garage and the growth of downtown," Picha said of the San Antonio company's more extensive study. It has been eight or nine years since the last comprehensive study of downtown parking, he said.
Picha said the city's comprehensive plan proposes adding more surface parking along Tabor Road. The city also tries to publicize the free parking available at City Hall in the evenings.
"It's a pretty common thing to do," he said of the need to collect input from residents. "We can't pretend to know all the issues by sitting in our offices or driving around. We have to talk to the people that live there and work there and visit every day."