Town of Smithfield Downtown Speed Reduction and Parking Enforcement Campaign Set to Begin
SMITHFIELD, NC – The Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation (DSDC) and the Town of Smithfield are working to make Downtown Smithfield safer and more pedestrian friendly through a campaign set to begin in August. With a thriving and growing business community, the DSDC recognizes the need to make some improvements that will benefit downtown visitors and business owners. DSDC believes that incremental changes along with more long-term strategies to make our downtown more pedestrian friendly and support additional private investment are needed.
It is for these reasons that the DSDC Board of Directors has requested that the Town of Smithfield enforce the posted speed limit in Downtown Smithfield, prohibit the parking of vehicles on sidewalks, and enforce the two-hour parking limits as signed in the downtown core.
Market Street is a critical artery through Smithfield, and is of significant importance to our downtown, having served as Smithfield's center of commerce and culture for hundreds of years. In recent years, however, Market Street and downtown in general have become less pedestrian friendly, in large part due to the speeds at which vehicles travel through. The DSDC Board requested the enforcement of the speed limit in order to improve the safety of both pedestrians and motorists in our downtown, enhance the atmosphere and encourage people to spend more time downtown, and to support the private investment from downtown property and business owners. Additionally, the DSDC suggested the strategic installation of speed aware radar speed signs to make drivers more aware of their speed.
The DSDC has observed a significant increase in vehicles parking on the sidewalk, which we attribute to a combination of the speeds traveled on Market Street, the narrow parking spaces, and the increasing size of many vehicles. Having vehicles on the sidewalk, an area meant for pedestrians, creates safety concerns for downtown users. Additionally, both the Town and the DSDC have made significant financial investments to upgrade the sidewalks and streetscape, and parking on the sidewalks is compromising the work that has been done, and creating additional safety issues for pedestrians.
As Downtown Smithfield continues to attract additional retail shops, restaurants, and active uses, the on-street parking spaces in the downtown core are becoming increasingly valuable for patrons of downtown businesses. Despite the 2-hour limit that exists for on-street parking in the downtown core, extended parking remains an issue. When DSDC staff completed an analysis earlier this year over the course of a three week period, they found that there was an average of more than 24 vehicles each day parked in a space in excess of that limit, with as many as 17 vehicles parked in one location for at least six hours on one day. As it is important for the on-street parking to turn over in order to make parking more convenient for downtown visitors, the DSDC encourages downtown business owners, people who work downtown, and people who are making extended visits to park in one of the nine free public parking lots located within two blocks of the intersection of Third and Market streets (a map of these lots is available under the Parking section at DowntownSmithfield.com).
The Smithfield Police Department will begin focusing on Downtown area enforcement. Drivers who exceed the posted speed limit can be ticketed and fined in accordance with North Carolina general statutes. Drivers parked in excess of posted time limits or on the sidewalk will be fined. Citations must be paid at Smithfield Town Hall.
The DSDC Board believes that these incremental changes will have a positive impact in the short term, but that additional improvements are needed as well. As such, the Board voted at its May 24 meeting to engage a firm to complete a Downtown Master Plan, which will include the identification of additional strategies designed to make Downtown Smithfield more pedestrian friendly, while also improving its function for vehicular traffic and parking. There are many options that the consultants are likely to consider and present to the community for feedback, and while some final recommendations will require long term implementation, there will be short term and mid range improvements that the DSDC and Town of Smithfield can pursue in the near future.
"As with any change, we understand that this will be an adjustment for people," stated Tim Depp, DSDC President. "However, after hearing feedback from stakeholders and much consideration, the Board believes that these changes will be beneficial to both downtown users and businesses."
For more information about Downtown Smithfield and its businesses, please visit www.DowntownSmithfield.com or contact DSDC Executive Director Sarah Edwards at (919) 934-0887.