Bath police are implementing a parking program in the South End that they believe would deter Bath Iron Works employees from parking on residential streets around the shipyard.

If the proposed program is approved by city councilors later this year, the time limit on existing two-hour on-street parking would be cut to one hour on the residential streets between Washington and High streets from Route 1/Leeman Highway to Lemont Street, according to Police Chief Andrew Booth. All residents on those roads would be given a free parking permit that allows them to park on the side of the road for an unlimited amount of time.

Parking tickets fines on those streets would also increase as part of the program, Booth said. A first offense parking ticket is $30.

Bath Parking Enforcement Officer June Berry estimated she writes about 30 parking tickets each day for cars parked in the South End, some of which are repeat offenders.

Booth said the goal of the program is to make parking in front of houses more difficult to encourage BIW workers to park in designated BIW or permitted lots. If successful, the program would reduce traffic, noise and accidents in the neighborhoods.

“(BIW) offers satellite parking, shuttling, and encourages carpooling,” said Booth. “We have other areas they can park if you want to walk a little ways. It’s a convenience matter for a lot of these employees. They like getting to work and having their car right there. They still have to come out every two hours and move their car, and to me, that’s a nuisance.”

About 2,000 permits would be given to residents, which would need to be renewed annually. The program would cost the city about $10,800 annually, according to Former Bath Police Chief Michael Field, who first introduced the proposed program in February.

Booth said the parking program is one of the several suggested solutions to reducing traffic and increasing safety from a 2019 traffic study the city conducted alongside the Maine Department of Transportation and BIW. The $75,000 study was spawned by the death of a BIW worker who was struck by a car on Washington Street while walking to work in 2016. The tragedy highlighted the dire need for increased safety in the South End.

According to the traffic study report released in 2019, BIW uses 1,604 parking spaces spread across 16 parking lots. This includes three satellite lots – the Taste of Maine parking lot in Woolwich, the MaineDOT Park and Ride lot on State Road in Bath off Route 1, and the Maine Gravel parking lot in West Bath.

Parking availability at Bath Iron Works’ satellite lots in 2019. Table by Nina Mahaleris for The Times Record.

“BIW encourages employees to carpool by offering free, priority parking to those who operate van pools or carpools,” BIW Spokesperson David Hench wrote in a statement Monday. “Through the use of roughly 65 shared passenger vans and 70 carpools, we estimate that about 1,000 employees do not need to find parking to get to their jobs at the main shipyard.”

Hench said the company is also working to expand its 400-space satellite lot in West Bath “to ensure that every BIW employee has access to free parking.”

Though the company is making strides to add parking as they hire more employees by the thousands, Hench said the shipyard ultimately does not “have authority to tell people where they can and can’t park off site before they come to work.”

Though they don’t like shipbuilders routinely parking in front of their homes, many South End residents said their larger concern is safety. Some residents said they see or hear shipbuilders speeding down their narrow roads during shift changes in an effort to beat the traffic.

“I hope we continue to look at some of the issues related to traffic beyond parking,” South End resident Noel Tague said during a meeting about the proposed program. “On Russell Street we have five children under the age of 10 within the span of four houses. I have a fenced-in yard and I still worry about my kids.”

About 3,300 of BIW’s roughly 7,400 employees leave the Bath shipyard on Washington Street each day at 3:30 p.m. during shift change, according to the 2019 parking study. While some board rented busses that shuttle them to satellite parking lots in West Bath and Woolwich, others run or walk through the neighborhood to retrieve their cars. Regardless of how they got to work, the sheer number of employees trying to get home inevitably clog the neighborhood.

“Every time someone new moves to the neighborhood with kids, I tell them to not be out on the streets at 3:30 and schedule your appointments around that time because it’s just not safe,” said Middle Street resident Elyse Reavely, whose husband works at BIW. “My husband has stopped walking on Stacy Street at the end of the day because it’s just not safe. (BIW workers) fly up Stacy Street in both directions at the same time.”

Bath Street resident Carrie McEneaney said she’d be in favor of the parking program because BIW workers park in front of her home every day.

“They’re here at 6:10 to be at work by 7 a.m. and they sit in their cars listening to music or chatting with one another and in the summer when everyone has their windows open, it can be loud,” said McEneaney. “They treat it like this isn’t a residential neighborhood.”

While many South End residents were in favor of the program, BIW workers had mixed emotions on the idea. Many argued workers need more approved parking areas elsewhere if the city wants to push them off residential roads.

“Parking is a mess, and it doesn’t help that BIW is bringing in more people,” said BIW shipfitter Derrick Spaulding. “If we had more places to park, this would be an ok idea.”

BIW employee Robert McKinnon said he didn’t know anyone who regularly parks on residential roads, but argued BIW workers should be allowed to park wherever they want on public roads.

BIW machinist Brandon Litalien said he understood why residents would be in favor of the program. He had one coworker who would regularly resort to parking on residential roads when he was late to work and couldn’t find space in the BIW-owned lots.

“When I worked on first shift I used the satellite lots, which worked well for me,” said Litalien. He said he switched to working on the second shift, which has fewer people, partially so he could find parking near the shipyard easier.

When he was on the larger first shift, Litalien said he would arrive at the satellite lot at 5:30 a.m. so he could find a parking space, then catch the shuttle to work on time for his 7 a.m. start time.

Booth said if the program development continues as planned, it will go before Bath City Council for approval in November and December. Should it be approved, Bath police will begin enforcing the program in January 2022.

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