Buses lined up outside of Bath Iron Works before a shift change, waiting to ferry workers to offsite parking lots. (Nathan Strout / The Times Record)

BATH — Bath officials are preparing to outline some ways they might try to ease traffic and parking woes in the city’s congested South End, home to thousands of residents as well as one of the state’s largest employers — Bath Iron Works.

A final public meeting outlining the findings of a major traffic study is set for Thursday, where city officials will review data collected over the past few months and share some possible solutions recommended in the study. A Bath official declined to discuss what those solutions might be, saying that would be revealed at Thursday’s meeting.

Traffic and parking in the city’s South End has been a concern for city officials for some time. Not only is the area home to the shipyard, a company with well over 5,000 employees, it is also a major residential area. For years, employees have fought with residents for limited parking in the area.

“It sucks,” Bath Iron Works welder Nathan Ouellette said bluntly.

Ouellette, who lives in Bath, said that he usually comes to work an hour early in order to find one of the rare free parking spots close to the shipyard gates.

“It’s different for the guys living an hour, an hour and a half away. They really have to get here at a certain time, otherwise, they’re screwed,” said Ouellette.

Some property owners have turned empty lots into makeshift parking lots for shipyard employees. The lots are packed to the brim, but many shipyard workers pay for a parking spot close to the yard.

“I pay for parking. $10 a week,” said Jessica Hisler, a painter at the shipyard who uses one such lot.

“I ride in with someone and we park in a paid lot,” said Andrew Burke, another painter at the shipyard.

According to Burke, the company doesn’t reimburse him for his parking, which adds up to about $40 per month.

All three workers said that increased parking, and ideally a parking garage, would greatly improve their experience.

“It would be great if they could make a parking garage. That would definitely help a lot of people out. It would cut down on space, and we wouldn’t have to worry about flooding,” said Hisler.

For its part, Bath Iron Works has tried to encourage workers to use offsite parking and shuttle buses to ease the demand for the limited on-street parking in the South End.

“BIW will continue to support ride-sharing, which reduces traffic as well as demand for parking, and is making other changes to improve safety and to ease congestion,” said Bath Iron Works Vice President Jon Fitzgerald. He added that the company will continue to make changes based on the study’s recommendations.

Beyond parking, traffic also becomes daily issue when thousands of Bath Iron Works employees flood in and out of the area during shift changes. Hisler said that traffic in Bath around shift changes add 10-15 minutes to her hour-long commute every day.

The traffic also affects workers outside the shipyard, and most residents know to schedule their days to avoid hitting the roads during shipyard shift changes. According to 2016 Maine Department of Transportation data, an average of 6,400 cars drive along Washington Street in the South End daily.

While the city has made minor adjustments to address parking and traffic issues in the area, it has largely held off on making any sweeping changes until the traffic study is completed and they have data to work with.

The study has been in the works for a while now and is a joint effort between the city, the shipyard and the Maine Department of Transportation. The three entities will split the $75,000 price tag for the study.

In a press release, City Manager Peter Owen admitted that there are no easy solutions or quick fixes to the traffic and parking issues in the South End: “What became increasingly clear over the past months is that there is no single action that would quickly address everyone’s concerns. And while the exodus of BIW workers every afternoon is certainly a challenge, other concerns with speeding and traffic patterns also need to be addressed.”

The final meeting will take place at Bath City Hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. More information about the study and the September public meeting on South End traffic can be found on the city’s website.

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