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Driving, parking becoming difficult on La Crosse streets; 2018 parking citation numbers are in

Rick Solem

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Snow is piled halfway as high as an SUV parked on Jackson Street in La Crosse on March 4, 2019.

You’ve probably noticed it’s getting to be a tight squeeze on the side streets of La Crosse.

Monday, driving down Market Street, a number of cars were parked well off the curb, causing, basically, a one-way lane to get through.

It’s easy enough to be patient but road rage is a thing, and sometimes notifying the authorities about such a dilemma is the best option before there’s an accident.

“If the car is parked up tight and there’s another car parked up tight against the snowbank on the other side — and the road is narrowed by that — we don’t expect to get phone calls on that,” La Crosse Police Chief Jason Melby said. “But, if somebody’s way out in the roadway, and parked too far away from the snowbank, causing problems, yeah, we would expect to get a call.”

Melby made sure to be clear that they don’t want a call on every car that’s parked a little crooked, because at this point, they almost all are.

“If there’s a vehicle clearly out in the middle of the roadway,” he said, “and making it impassable for vehicles — it’s unreasonably far away from the snowbank — obviously we would address that, whether it would be by towing or by citation, depending on the roadway and how heavily it’s traveled.”

City crews are working to try and clear the sides of the roads, so parking — and biking and walking — isn’t so troublesome. Police ask you be patient and yield if traffic looks to be a tight fit.

Police aren’t out there ticketing every car that’s parked off the curb, as they understand this is an unusual winter — February was the snowiest month ever in La Crosse, breaking a record that dated back to 1959.

“We haven’t dealt with something like this quite to this magnitude,” Melby said. “Quite honestly, with all the bad weather and driving conditions, we’ve dealt with quite a few more accidents than usual, more so than the parking issues.”

The forecast might not help any. While there’s no snow during the week, it looks as though freezing rain is on its way for Saturday, and it could snow all next week.

In other parking news, the city’s parking utility coordinator had some numbers Monday morning for the Board of Public Works.

Jim Flottmeyer said the city brought in around $770,000 from 47,714 parking tickets in 2018 — though around 12,000 were warnings for first-time offenders.

Flottmeyer said the revenue from fines was about $100,000 over what the city anticipated in its budget.

That’s up from 35,000 tickets in 2017 that resulted in $613,000 in fines.

In the parking ramps for 2018, the city generated $935,774 in permit fees and $124,475 from hourly parking through the pay stations and app.