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Downtown parking rules change; pay stations delayed

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Clarification: This story has been edited to clarify that the only immediate change is the two-hour parking limit that creates uniform parking rules in Wausau. Other changes are planned but will not be implemented until spring.

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Though plans for parking pay stations are delayed until spring, uniform parking rules will go into effect later this week for areas in downtown Wausau, according to city officials.

Members of the city council on Tuesday approved standardized two-hour parking on city streets within the downtown area. The ordinance will go into effect Friday, according to Finance Director Maryanne Groat. Spaces already reserved for 15-minute parking will remain the same.

Public Works staff will change out the signage Friday. The new rules were announced in late July, months before they were formally approved.

Starting Friday, all on-street parking spaces in the downtown area will be standardized to two hours of free parking and all parking meters will be removed in those spaces. The city’s downtown surface parking lots and the Jefferson Street ramp will also have two hours of free parking.

Parking pay stations are also planned but legal details prolonged their implementation, Groat said. Those issues have been resolved but with cold weather fast approaching, officials opted to wait until spring for installation.

Those pay stations will accept coin, cash and credit cards with a new parking mobile app to provide parking reminders via text and allow remote extended time purchases for drivers who need more time than the free two hours, according to the release. The mobile app, Passport, is the same system used in cities around the state including Appleton, Green Bay, Stevens Point, La Crosse and Fond du Lac.

Also planned: new license plate recognition technology that will eliminate the current chalking process, potentially improving enforcement and ensuring on-street space turnover more quickly, officials said.

The city will spend about about $300,000 on the automated pay stations and license plate recognition software, according to city documents. The funds will come from the city’s parking fund reserves. The expense was approved in July by members of the finance committee.

The changes rely in part on findings from a consultant the city hired four years ago. In June 2014, city officials approved a $54,000 plan to hire Walker Parking Consultants to study the area’s needs and assess parking downtown. This marks the first major change for downtown parking since the study was completed.

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