The City of Soldotna invited the public to an open house on Tuesday night to discuss road rehabilitation plans for Binkley Street.
Questions and comments from the about 20 people who came to down to Soldotna City Hall focused on the three roundabouts proposed to be constructed at Binkley Street’s intersections with Wilson Lane, Redoubt Avenue and Marydale Drive.
Concerns raised by locals included whether the street is busy enough to warrant roundabouts and if people will just use other routes to avoid the roundabouts, how commercial truck drivers and emergency vehicles will be able to navigate the intersections, and how the maintenance department will be affected — especially during the snowy months.
City Engineer Kyle Kornelis said the city conducted traffic impact analyses to account for both current and future traffic needs. He said it is one of the busiest city streets with drivers traveling to the George A. Navarre Borough Administration Building, Central Peninsula Hospital and other medical facilities, retail shops and schools. He said statistics show that roundabouts not only allow for more vehicles per hour to flow down the street but there are fewer accidents at roundabout intersections. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities requires roundabouts at new or rehabilitated intersections unless otherwise justified.
“I hope people will give (roundabouts) a fair shake,” Kornelis said.
The roundabouts, if implemented, would be single lane and the medians would have a gradual curb so trucks and campers can roll over them if necessary, Kornelis said.
Brad Nelson, Central Emergency Services health and safety officer, said the roundabouts might actually be helpful for CES, which is located at the Wilson Lane and Binkley Street intersection. He said while the rule for drivers when they see emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens going is to pullover to the right, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes people stop in the middle of the lane or other people pullover to the left.
“If these things work out, theoretically the way they’re supposed to, we should always have the avenue right do the middle that nobody’s driving on to get through,” he said.
Kornelis said the maintenance department will have to make some adjustments with snow removal to work around the roundabouts, if implemented.
Scott Sundberg, maintenance department manager, said the plows are equipped with blades that should allow operators to float them over the roundabouts to move snow.
Pedestrians were also taken into consideration in the design. The plan calls for the current 5-foot wide bike lane to be reduced to 3-feet so the sidewalk can be widened to 6 feet. Along the majority of the 4,500-foot long street the right-of-way is 60 feet, but in places where it is wider, the design bumps out the sidewalk to get pedestrians away from the street, Kornelis said.
The roundabout medians between lanes of traffic traveling in different directions make crossing the street easier for pedestrians because they will only have to cross one lane of traffic at a time, said Joe McElroy, consultant with engineering and surveying firm SGM, Inc.
Soldotna project manager, Lee Frey, said the wider sidewalks can also be utilized by bikers who aren’t comfortable riding with traffic in the bike lane. He said based on concerns from citizens, the city is looking into methods of public outreach to inform people who has the right-of-way in roundabouts, including bike and pedestrian traffic.
The $2.5 million project is funded by two state grants.
The street has seen no major work over projects since it was constructed in 1987. Along with possible roundabouts and a wider sidewalk, design also calls for new pavement, curb, gutter and drainage improvements as well as landscaping and beautification features.
Kornelis said the city is looking to put the project out for bid in the spring and construction will likely last through the summer.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.