Kenai cops deploy new traffic safety sign

Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Contrary to rumors spreading through the community, the new electronic safety sign deployed on arterial streets by Kenai police is not taking photos of passing motorists or their license plate numbers.

The new 4-foot by 8-foot sign, used mostly along the Kenai Spur Highway, is serving as a warning to motorists to slow down and obey posted speed limits.

Traffic stops for speeding in areas where the sign is being used will now result in fewer warnings and more citations, according to Sgt. Gus Sandahl.

Like the smaller sign, which had been in use in Kenai since late March, the new sign flashes a motorist's speed and informs the driver of the posted speed limit.

Additionally the new sign can display up to six text messages informing drivers of especially hazardous road conditions ahead or of special events such as the upcoming July 4 Parade.

Kenai police were able to purchase the $26,714 trailer-mounted sign with the help of an Alaska Highway Safety Office grant, which required a 10 percent match from the city, Sandahl said.

"The price included shipping from Atlanta, Ga.," said Sandahl.

"Without the shipping, it was $23,714," he said.

Although the sign does not have a camera for photographing passing motorists, it is equipped with a data gathering computer that collects information on motorists such as how fast they're going, how many motorists pass at a particular period of the day and when the most or fewest speeders are going by.

"The goal is to reduce the number and severity of crashes on Kenai highways," Sandahl said.

"To do this, we need to reduce the number of speeders and inform people of road hazards ahead."

He said speeding is a problem particularly near Mile 8 of the Kenai Spur Highway, near Gator Guns, where the highway widens to four lanes coming into Kenai from Soldotna.

"Since we put the other (smaller) sign there, we're noticing a reduction in the number of speeders — in both directions," Sandahl said.

The smaller sign is on loan from the state safety office for an indefinite period of time.

Sandahl said the new sign will be especially valuable in winter months when ice ruts can be a particular problem on the Kenai Spur Highway.

"We'll also be able to warn drivers of temporary road closure information or about icy conditions on the hill at Mile 4," he said.

Since the new sign was deployed June 15, Sandahl said the department has not heard any negative feedback.

"We have heard positive comments from people who say they would rather be warned (of their speed) by the sign than be pulled over by police," Sandahl said.

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