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Parking in city garage will cost most more

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The Fredericksburg City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to raise the parking fees at the Sophia Street Garage starting Aug. 1.

The changes eliminate the early-bird parking rate of $5, thus increasing the cost by $3 for commuters who stay all day.

The council also agreed to increase the cost of a monthly permit from $70 to $100. However, city residents will receive a $25 discount, leaving them with a net increase of $5 per month.

The goal of raising the fees is to discourage commuters from parking in the garage, which will see greater demand with the opening of the new courthouse in August.

The council also wants to encourage use of the deck by people coming downtown to shop, work or do business.

Council members George Solley and Matt Kelly wondered whether the fees were raised enough to achieve those goals and asked City Manager Bev Cameron to report back to council at a reasonable time on the impact the changes have.

There is no reserved parking for courthouse visitors and only 10 spaces inside the structure for employees.

Initial estimates suggested the courthouse could put demand for parking at  about 240 spaces, including jurors, employees and the general public.

While the parking fees increase, the hourly rate will not change, and people will still be able to park for up to three hours for free.

The last rate increase came in December 2011.

The garage is located at the corner of Sophia and Wolfe streets and has 297 parking spaces.

Parking is one of the city’s top concerns and was discussed during a closed meeting on Tuesday.

The city will lose about 90 spaces when the Riverfront Park opens if the design proposal under consideration is approved.

However, Councilman George Solley, who chairs the Riverfront Task Force, said he hopes there is additional parking before the park is finished.

The park is to be built on 3.6 acres between Sophia Street and the Rappahannock River. The site is adjacent to Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church.

In a March 18 memo, Assistant City Manager Mark Whitley said that demand for the Sophia Street Garage spaces should decrease when a new Virginia Railway Express station opens in Spotsylvania County.

However, when that station and its parking will be ready is unclear.

Work has begun on a third track for VRE to the Spotsylvania station location, but work has not begun on the station and the project has gotten hung up on negotiations for the 25 acres needed for a 1,500-space parking lot at the Crossroads Business Park off U.S. 17.

A Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman said recently that negotiations are underway and she is hopeful work can begin this summer.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

 

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