Let’s Not Repeat Main Street Mistakes

Kalispell’s downtown parking is again being heavily used

By Fran Tabor

This winter’s heavy snow reminded me of those bad old days driving down Kalispell’s Main Street before we so wisely spent money to widen it.

Back in the ‘80s all traffic came to a stop if someone wanted to back out of his or her parking spot. Unless, of course, traffic didn’t stop, in which case if you were the person trying to leave, you were stuck! I am thankful today such traffic-choking is temporary. Our improved, widened street makes driving and parking downtown easier and safer.

There are plans to undue our wonderful Main Street widening, turn it back into only one-lane driving, with a center turn lane. Worse, these same “planners” think diagonal parking should replace our current parallel parking. With parallel parking all of us, even in the smallest cars, can easily see when it is safe to pull out.

With the proposed three-lane and diagonal parking, if you are driving down Main Street and realize too late someone is trying to exit a diagonal parking spot, you have no choice but to turn into the center turn lane – an illegal maneuver, the center lane is for turning only!

Why repeat yesterday’s mistakes? “People refuse to walk to businesses so we must have more parking on Main Street.”

Has no one seen the Wal-Mart parking lot? Even the closest handicapped parking is across a wide, two-lane driving “street” away from Wal-Mart’s front door. Some of Wal-Mart’s parking spots are the equivalent of over three blocks away. On busy days even those distant spots are filled.

People are willing to walk because there is something to walk to.

After years of stagnation, Kalispell’s downtown parking is again being heavily used. This is good! We are discovering Kalispell’s interesting variety of small shops. Like Wal-Mart shoppers, we have a reason to walk. Kalispell is part of the national trend of increased downtown business successes.

Whenever streets are torn up, shopping on those streets takes a dive. Street construction nationwide has forced many businesses into bankruptcy. A few years ago, Kalispell widened the sidewalks on First Avenues East and West. Shops endured months of reduced income. Several went from profitable to out of business. Their empty storefronts made neighboring buildings less valuable.

Let’s spend on money on the streets with big potholes, on the many blocks with no sidewalks, on the new streets, street lights, landscaping, public sitting, public signage, and other expenses in the old train track area. Let’s not waste one penny resurrecting yesterday’s Main Street mistakes.

Fran Tabor

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