Lexington's Chevy Chase district has more parking spaces these days — but some customers aren't sure how to park in them.
"A lot of folks are just really unclear on exactly how it's supposed to work," said Wyn Morris, owner of Morris Book Shop.
The parking spots in front of the bookstore and the Rite Aid next door have been changed from parallel to diagonal as part of the Chevy Chase Improvement Project. Customers are supposed to back into the parking spots, but some are pulling in head-first.
Morris said he's happy to see the change to diagonal spots because it adds more places to park, but it's been a little chaotic since this is the busiest time of year for his business.
"The nose-in thing, I'm not sure I wouldn't do if I were out driving," Morris said.
Rodger Hall, who was out shopping at Rite-Aid on Friday night, described the new parking spaces as "different," and chuckled as he looked at them.
"The other day when I came by, right after they paved the road and put the lines down, I noticed that the lanes looked like they were going the wrong way," Hall said. "My first inclination was 'What do they want you to do here? Those are going the wrong way for normal parking.'"
Hall said he figured out that the spaces were designed for drivers to back in. However, he decided to park in a parking lot rather than on the street.
"I really didn't want to stop on the highway ... When you're parallel parking, everybody knows what you're doing, but right here it doesn't seem like people will get what you're doing," Hall said, pointing at the parking spaces. Also, the sign describing how to park in the spaces is difficult to see at night, Hall added.
In addition to the parking changes, the Chevy Chase Improvement Project includes reconstruction and realignment of the intersection of East High Street and Euclid Avenue. The project, which had been planned for years, began in September.
The project added bike lanes and narrowed the intersection so pedestrians could more easily use the crosswalks.
The sidewalk is still torn up in front of McAlister's Deli on Euclid Avenue, but now that the pole for the old traffic signal has been removed, pavers can be installed in front of the deli.
Fifth District Council member Bill Farmer Jr. said he would have liked to see the project finished before Christmas, but utilities, sewage lines and older infrastructure under the intersection led to extra repairs that took longer than anticipated.
Morris said the road was milled on Monday and blacktopped on Tuesday, and stripes for the parking spaces were painted Wednesday.
"I don't think it's been harmful — I don't think it's hurt our business because ... the process was not complicated," he said.
Farmer, who owns Farmer's Jewelry on Euclid, said the work being done near his store was inconvenient, but not impassible.
Morris said he loves the concept of the new parking spaces because people don't have to open their car doors into traffic, and they can load their trunk from the sidewalk.
If only some motorists understood they're not supposed to pull into the spots from the opposite side of the street, he said.
Motorists who park front-first usually realize the error of their ways when they try to leave.
"Then you realize you have to back out into traffic that's going the opposite direction," Morris said. "There's confusing, and then there's dangerous, and that's the one that seems to be where it's become a little bit more dangerous."
But people who back into the spaces, as they are supposed to do, find that leaving is easy.
Morris said new "One Way" signs have been added in the parking lot next door to Rite Aid. However, the angled parking spaces haven't been repainted in that lot yet, so the lines are facing the wrong direction, creating another confusing situation.
But Morris said he still thinks the new parking concept is sound. "It may just take Lexington a little while to figure it out."
Farmer said this project was "a beginning facelift" for the area.
"There's still a lot of interest in improving Chevy Chase," he said.