Annapolis' parking crunch; Arundel: New garage and better use of mass transit and shuttle service can ease major concern.


ANNAPOLIS has its hands full. It is home to three governments. A new county courthouse will be christened next month. An annex to the Senate office building is under construction. More people already are pouring into the capital city's downtown. And more will come.

Where are all these people going to park?

Parking may be the biggest issue facing Mayor Dean L. Johnson. He must move forward with a transportation strategy for downtown Annapolis that should include a new parking garage, shuttle buses and mass transit.

The crunch is getting tighter with the scheduled demolition of the 393-space parking garage owned by the Anne Arundel Medical Center. It's being torn down to make way for a new community of 139 upscale condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes.

Some neighbors think it's absurd that the city will allow the garage to be torn down with such a paucity of parking. But the garage would interfere with the planned community and the city would have to go through the tedious eminent domain process to keep the garage in place. That process would also unfairly slight the developer who won the bid to construct the new housing.

Instead, the city must move forward with other alternatives. That means improving and expanding shuttle service from the 5,000-space Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium parking lot.

It also means building another parking garage. Efforts to construct a garage on a city-owned site on West Street have stalled because century-old houses are there. These building deserve a fair but quick appraisal to determine their historic significance.

While preservationists do their work, the city should draw two plans for a garage on the site -- one that builds where the houses are and another that would build around them, if they are deemed historic.

Indeed, Annapolis can build and shuttle its way out of this parking crunch.

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