By ELISE GIORDANO
Though the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has agreed to place pedestrian crossing signs on heavily congested State Street, the Public Safety Facility wants more protection for its foot traffic.
During a June 15 meeting, Assemblymen Tim Cochran and Gary Hanson met with Skagway Chief of Police Ray Leggett to discuss with concerned citizens the steps being taken.
Leggett said after working with DOT for months on correcting the crosswalk issue, the most they were willing to do was install pedestrian crossing signs, which the Skagway Traditional Council has agreed to pay for.
The 3’x3’ signs will be placed at the intersection of 7th Ave. and between 4th and 5th, as well as on 5th and between 3rd and 4th.
Leggett said he doesn’t foresee crosswalks going in for quite some time.
“They (DOT) aren’t inclined to put in crosswalks at this time because they have to redo the street, and there has to be studies [done],” he said.
State Street resident Cheryl Barger, the original proponent of the crosswalks, said while the signs are a move in the right direction, she would still like to see the crosswalks at 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th, as “those are the most heavily traversed intersections.”
Barger’s sister Bianca is handicapped and is unable to cross State from her home at the 6th Ave. intersection in order to visit the Post Office and bank.
Dennis Corrington spoke on behalf of the crosswalks and flashing lights.
“Anywhere in the state where you have the nursing homes and hospitals you have these walks and lights. I think it would be helpful to have them under these circumstances,” he said.
Leggett said that crosswalks may not be the best solution to the problem, as they might cause traffic jams on State Street and would also create a lack of parking.
Due to regulations, if a crosswalk were installed, Leggett said parking on State Street would become limited, causing extra cars to be parked in front of homes.
“Before we move toward that direction, I think it’s only fair to give the people from 2nd to 8th a call and ask if they want all of those cars parked around their houses,” he said. “There is a butterfly effect.”
Assemblyman Tim Cochran suggested the speed limit between the streets in question be lowered from 25 to 20 mph, with flashing lights added to draw attention to the change.
“It’s amazing how much that 5 mph is in stopping distance,” Cochran said.
Discussion surrounding State Street is nothing new, and Leggett said DOT will want to know what has changed to require the new infrastructure.
“Traffic,” Barger said. “In 1979 there was hardly any traffic, and now with the increase of tourism and all of the ships that come in…. that’s what’s changed.”
Leggett argued that traffic hasn’t changed much since 2007.
According to Average Daily Traffic data provided by ADOT&PF’s Spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow, traffic hasn’t changed much since 2003, the furthest records they could find.
Between 5th and 6th Avenues, the ADT in 2003 was 1,993. In 2013 it was 2,010.
Years 2004 and 2005 fall into the 600s, but Woodrow said this is likely due to the measurements being taken at a different time of year. Unfortunately, the data does not contain the exact date of record.
The average ADT between 5th and 6th since 2003 is 1,650.
Though the crosswalks may not be a solution in the near future, Hanson suggested the community rally together to help Bianca, proposing the Boy or Girl Scouts or other organizations offer up their services.
“Skagway has always rallied to this kind of thing. As a community we come together,” he said. “If we want to discuss that and find out what the needs are, we can probably come up with something that will ease your mind and find something that will ease Bianca’s situation.”
The committee agreed to write a formal letter to ADOT&PF to request a decrease in speed and the addition of flashing lights to the crossing signs.