ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)– Altoona recently hired consultants to help improve their current parking situation within the downtown area.

The city hired Trans Associate Engineering Consultants of Pittsburgh to do a $40,000 parking study within the downtown area. City Manager Omar Strohm said that the group would be studying the current and future parking trends within the area to make recommendations.

The council approved the contract at their meeting on June 13. Strohm said they went along with this group because of their efficient timeline and high reputation among the other people.

The study will occur between 10th and 14th avenues and 7th and 18th streets, the primary business area. The study comes at a time when there’s a slight shortage of parking.

The Gables Garage, located on 12th Avenue is closed temporarily due to structural concerns. That leaves a significant amount of parking taken away for those that need it on the weekdays. Altoona Mayor Matt Pacifico said that the city is looking to be ahead of what could be a troubling problem.

“We’re looking to get ahead of the perceived parking shortage that exists here,” Pacifico said. “So they’ll be studying the feasibility of an additional parking garage and looking at the overall scope of how we handle parking in and around the Central Business District area.”

City officials knew that now was the time to complete the study because of the upcoming development of the area. Strohm said that further economic development would be easier when there’s a better understanding on parking.

“A lot of economic development hinges in one way or another on folks’ ability to park and get to the economically developed area,” Strohm said. “One thing that could hinder that development is a lack of a plan for parking.”

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City officials said they hope the study comes back with clear resolutions to their issues, whether that means adding a new garage or possibly utilizing a parking app.

Mayor Pacifico said he hopes the study also helps eliminate the stigma of downtown parking. People tend to avoid the area, knowing it’s challenging to get a space.

“A lot of people get deterred from coming downtown now because they’re going to have to circle the block multiple times to find a parking space out front,” Pacifico said. “If we can solve those issues and maybe change the mindset for parking downtown.”

The study is expected to take at least 16 weeks to complete. A kickoff meeting with necessary stakeholders for the study is planned for mid-July.