CRYSTAL LAKE – Those looking to park in downtown Crystal Lake will have more options for free spaces under measures approved this week by city officials.
The city will remove 30 paid parking spaces from the train depot lot closest to businesses along Woodstock Street and convert them to free four-hour parking.
“The entire project originated because of the need to increase four-hour surface parking options for downtown patrons,” a city memo read.
The spaces being lost there will be replaced by a new parking lot on Railroad Street, across the tracks and on the side of inbound trains. There will be 63 paid parking spots on-street and in the new lot, and six stalls for motorcycles.
“These new commuter spots are on the side of the tracks that commuters leave in the morning,” Deputy City Manager George Koczwara said. “It’s a win-win for commuters because they’re getting a net increase of  spots, and the downtown businesses are getting 30 new surface spaces.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council agreed to amend a long-standing lease agreement with Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the lot. Under the agreement, which city officials say dates to the 1950s, Union Pacific gets one-third of the income generated from the paid stalls, and the city maintains the lot.
The city bought and demolished two homes on Railroad Street, where the new lot will be, for a total cost of $294,880 for both properties.
In all, there will be 50 paid commuter spaces in the lot and 13 on Railroad Street, plus the six motorcycle spots.
The city anticipates the parking lot construction will cost $200,000. The construction also will include more bike racks and decorative lighting.
Additionally, Railroad Street will be converted to one-way traffic between Second and Grant streets. Contrary to popular belief, that section of roadway is open to two ways.
“Most people think it is [already a one-way street],” Koczwara said. “The one-way portion is from Grant to Main. This portion is not.”
The parking lot required a variance, which was approved Wednesday by the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission’s recommendation to approve the variance will be up for a City Council vote at their next meeting March 5.