Parking changes at post office causing confusion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Channie Chaulk came to the Main Street post office early Tuesday only to find that she was driving backwards. Chaulk, of Constance Road, was unaware of the change in traffic patterns at the facility and drove in through the new exit.

&uot;My Lord, I came in backwards to what everybody else is doing,&uot; she said. &uot;How am I going to get out of this mess?&uot;

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Needless to say, Chaulk escaped the problem, but it took some doing. Traffic through the lot backed up while it stopped to allow her to back up and pull into a parking slot. She then exited her car and went into the post office, but not before she was pointed in the right direction on how to exit the parking lot.

Other drivers like Rufus Hart, seemed just as puzzled by what they saw as a maze of signs, traffic cones and other changes at the corner of Western Avenue and North Main Street.

&uot;I just don’t understand this,&uot; said Hart. &uot;I worked here for 30 years and it has always been a mess. This is not going to help. They need to get somebody in here who can do an analysis of the whole situation and find a way to fix it.&uot;

The changes in traffic caused such consternation in one customer, Harry Dalton, he managed to lock his keys inside his pickup.

Customer Julian Picot said he knew there were changes in store at the post office, but he doesn’t see the change in traffic patterns as a fix.

&uot;It’ll never work until they get a building with enough space to accommodate the traffic that’s always here,&uot; said Picot. &uot;It’s always been a problem and this isn’t going to make it any better.&uot;

Barbara Kieger, another customer, said &uot;it’s worse now than ever,&uot; after she crossed Western Avenue on foot to get to the post office.

&uot;This is terrible because someone could be hit since there are many people doing this,&uot; said Kieger. &uot;They need to move to a location where there is more parking. I would suggest they move to the old &uot;Moovies’ store, and they have the money to do it!&uot;

One customer who picks up mail several times a day, Attorney Johnnie E. Mizelle, said he doesn’t see the new traffic patterns as a solution to the problem.

&uot;Any changes will help because we’ve had a maze of a mess all along,&uot; said Mizelle. &uot;I’ve just learned to live with it and after all, it all comes down to respect for each other. If you see someone is hung up in a line of traffic, trying to make a turn, let them go. That’s they key… courtesy to one another.&uot;

Several changes have been instituted at the post office, most of which were suggested by Andrew B. Damiani, who served three terms on Suffolk City Council. Damiani first addressed the problems back in 1998 when he wrote a letter to former City Manager Myles E. Standish.

&uot;They have finally, after all these years, come up with some good creative ideas,&uot; said Damiani. &uot;I pointed out to them that they should eliminate the left turn onto Main Street back then, and I also notified them about the post office employees &uot;squatting’ in the parking places in the lot. They moved them over two years ago, and that freed up some parking spaces.&uot;

Now, with the changes taking place as of Tuesday morning, traffic now enters the post office lot by way of the Western Avenue entrance. Entry on the Main Street side is now non-existent. Also, with entry on the Western Avenue side, drivers turn left to do business inside the post office.

Another problem occurred Tuesday morning when a lady drove up into the parking lot in the correct direction, but was bewildered when she saw the empty spots where the drop boxes for mail had once stood.

Postmaster Andrea Mercer said the drop boxes are to be situated in the parking lot with an exit near the Church Street side of the parking lot, or to the Western Avenue side where they can merge to the right in Main Street traffic.

Other drivers see the lack of a traffic light at the Western Avenue/Main Street intersection as another problem.

The postmaster said no light will ever be there and in fact, it won’t be long before it’s illegal to make that left turn onto North Main Street.

All this is being done in the interest of preventing fender benders and snarled traffic at the post office. Suffolk’s Department of Public Works has worked with the post office to create new parking places in the lot, and there are also new slots of parallel parking on Western Avenue.

&uot;Also, our staff parking has been moved, and that will free up some spaces once public works completes their work,&uot; said Mercer. &uot;As for a traffic light on the Western Avenue side, that won’t happen. You can’t have traffic signals that close to the signal at Main and Constance Road. The safest way to go is to turn right onto Main Street and go with the traffic flow. If you have to go north on Main, go around the block by turning right onto Mahan Street, then right onto Church Street. From Church Street, you can go to Constance Road, near McDonald’s, and make a turn there to get to Main.&uot;

As for getting a new post office any time soon, forget that.

&uot;They (the U.S. Postal Service) look at the size of the city, the spaciousness of the retail office and the number of people out there,&uot; said the postmaster. &uot;We really are not in bad shape. We will have the parking lot repaved by Blair Brothers this week, and it will all work well together. We’d like to have a new building, but we just do not meet the nationwide criteria.&uot;

Mercer said that in an effort to meet with post office customers and listen to their suggestions, she will be on hand with trays of refreshments today. She said she would listen to any ideas or complaints on the traffic patterns.

In the meantime, the postmaster also suggested that some people might use the satellite offices located in Whaleyville, Driver, Chuckatuck, and Holland. Also, rural route customers should consider that their postman has all the postal supplies carried at the post office.