By ELISE GIORDANO
As spring comes to a close and summer waits around the corner, the amount of people in town is growing. And with those people comes traffic.
As tour buses combine with cars, ore and fuel-hauling trucks and vans, congestion along State Street grows rapidly. And for some, simply crossing the street can be hazardous.
Cheryl Barger lives on State Street, and for her, the traffic has become much too much for a small town like Skagway.
“I have my commercial driver’s license and I know how long it takes to stop a vehicle of that size and weight,” she said. ”There is no way they can stop in time to avoid hitting somebody.”
Barger’s sister Bianca is handicapped, but enjoys checking her mail, visiting the bank and walking through town on her own.
But to get to the bank and post office, Bianca must cross the street, which Barger said is no easy task.
“[Bianca] may be handicapped, but she has the right to get out and walk around safely,” she said.
Barger said last summer she counted 42 vehicles driving down State Street in just two minutes.
“I am motivated because of Bianca, but I am also motivated for the welfare of everybody, including the tourists.”
Barger spoke with Regional Traffic and Safety Engineer for the Southeast region of the Department of Transportation David Epstein, who according to Barger, said a pedestrian crosswalk was not possible because State Street is a state highway.
But Epstein said in a phone interview, that while they don’t want to install a “sign forest,” a crosswalk is doable if the need is there.
“Marking a crosswalk is not something we take lightly. [We] put them where they are warranted,” he said. “It’s not that we will never do it, they just have to meet certain conditions.”
Epstein said a crosswalk is typically deemed necessary when 20 or more people try to cross the street in an hour. Statistics like crash history are also taken into consideration.
In order to have the crosswalk considered, Epstein suggested people voice their concerns as ADOT&PF begins the repaving of State Street.
“If we don’t hear about a problem, and we don’t observe one, silence is kind of like consensus,” he said.
He also recommended more enforcement from the police department, though he understands the police force is limited.
Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett said SPD hasn’t received a lot of complaints, but he knows the issue is there.
Leggett recommended placing crosswalks at 6th and 4th Avenues, as well as signs before the crosswalks warning drivers of pedestrians.
“We don’t want to see people get hurt,” he said.
Leggett plans on contacting ADOT&PF to see what can be done.
In the meantime, Barger has created a petition to find support for the proposed crosswalks and has collected 64 signatures thus far.
“We get the same ships that they do in Juneau, and we’re only four blocks wide,” she said. “People are crossing that street all the time and they have to dash across. It’s just a matter of time before somebody is killed.”