A City of Waterloo proposal to reduce the number of lanes on King Street from Erb to Central Street has businesses concerned about a rise in traffic congestion and a shortage of parking spots.

The busy four-lane stretch of King Street could be reduced to three or two traffic lanes if the $2.1 million Uptown Waterloo Streetscape Improvement Proposal moves forward.

While the proposal has been discussed since April, merchants in the area say they weren't consulted and they're concerned the two-lane plan will drive customers away.

Glen Smith owns Ethel's Lounge on King Street, he says "It's amazing that people come up with these silly ideas."

Georgina Zapstes of the Mr. Sub on King Street adds "If they want to come down here they drive, we have urban sprawl. People have vehicles, they're going to drive here. If it's too difficult to get here, they're not going to come."

Eckhard Pastrik is the project manager with the City of Waterloo, he says the concerns of merchants aren't being ignored, ‘It's their livelihood at stake, so yes we take that very seriously."

Pastrik adds the current three and two lane options may not be the final proposal.

There are also concerns about fire trucks and ambulances getting through if there is only one lane of traffic in either direction.

Examining that issue is part of the study, according to the city. The project is also an attempt to expand the success of events at the new public square further south, which has successfully gotten people out of their cars.

The hope is an attractive, vibrant and pedestrian-friendly environment will draw people further north on King Street.

Smith says areas like downtown Kitchener, Brantford, Hamilton and Windsor have tried a similar approach and failed, "Other cities scared other traffic away and they never got them back…they'd love to have that traffic back again."

The study is expected to be complete in 2011, when a recommended proposal will go to city council. Meanwhile an public meeting is being held on the issues at Waterloo City Hall on Dec. 2 from 4:00-8:00 p.m.