The western end of Water Street will soon have a completely different feel, as the project to renovate it takes shape. The work, captured by BID transportation director Greg Billing, began recently and should be wrapped up within weeks.
As Billing describes, the project is accomplishing several goals. The first and most pressing was the restoration of the steps going from Water Street up to the canal towpath. For years they have been in such bad shape that they resembled something from a Roman ruin. If they weren’t repaired they were on the way to becoming more of a ramp than a set of stairs.
On top of the star repair work, the project seeks to create a genuine trailhead for the Capital Crescent Trail, which starts just the other side of the old aqueduct bridge abutment. The newly created plaza will offer benches and a bike repair stand.
This work also ends the illegal parking that has taken place here for many years. While there was legal and free parking just east of where this new plaza is, it was never legal to park right at the base of the steps. Of course that never stopped people from doing it. And the dozen or so free spots encouraged roughly a billion drivers to drive down this stretch looking for them before turning around in a dangerous three-point turn all with walkers and cyclists in their path. No there are only a couple spots west of 34th St.
The city now needs to do a better job communicating to drivers to not drive west of 34th looking for parking. It constructed a mini-roundabout to encourage drivers to turn around there, but so far they mostly don’t. In fact they mostly just drive right through the center of the circle. More signs and/or bollards are necessary to finally get drivers to realize the spots are truly gone.
But for now, let’s enjoy our new plaza.