Red light

State refuses to consider new signals in Soldotna

Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Despite requests from city officials and citizens alike, the state is refusing to consider traffic lights and crosswalks on Kobuk and Birch streets in Soldotna for at least 14 years.

"Oh my goodness. Good grief, those guys just don't get it, do they?" said Soldotna pedestrian advocate Peggy Mullen upon hearing the news. "Here we are with a governor who cares about pedestrians and bicyclists, but DOT is just so focused on motor vehicles."

Alaska Department of Transpor-tation and Public Facilities Regional Director David Eberle wrote a letter to Soldotna City Manager Tom Boedeker last month in response to a resolution and letter requesting the lights.

He cites low pedestrian traffic at the two intersections as the reason lights and crosswalks would not be put in.

"Our counts in June and August do not demonstrate a high demand for pedestrian crossing ...," noted Eberle, who is based in Anchorage.

He said national standards for crosswalks require a minimum of 50 pedestrians crossing an hour for four straight hours, or 95 crossing in one hour.

"They're never going to count that many people crossing Kobuk in an hour," said Soldotna Vice Mayor Jim Stogsdill. "Residents of Soldotna are too smart to try and cross there."

"They're not going to see many," Mullen said. "But you and I see them, waiting and waiting and waiting to make rabbit runs across."

Mullen said this debate is reminiscent of a similar one during the Kenai Spur Highway's reconstruction at the Marydale Avenue intersection.

"We were asking for a traffic light near Soldotna Elementary," she said. "There was no way kids could cross it except being driven, and it's only a couple of blocks. If there were a stoplight, they could walk to school."

She said DOT sent two people down to sit and watch the intersection for an hour and then attended a meeting on the subject.

"They said they didn't see anybody cross and we didn't need the light," she said. "We really had to fight them. It was just awful."

Based on vehicle traffic flow, Eberle said DOT has determined additional traffic lights on the Sterling Highway to relieve congestion at the Binkley, Spur and East Redoubt lights would not be warranted until the year 2015.

"If we were to place signals for low-volume side-streets, then the delays introduced to mainline traffic will be significant as well," he wrote.

Despite not having plans to put in traffic lights on the two streets, Eberle said underground sensors and wiring will be installed, first under the Birch Street intersection during the current repaving, and in 2003 or 2004 at Kobuk Street, when that section of the road is rebuilt.

"I'm delighted that they figured out by spending a very small amount they can keep from tearing up the road," Mullen said.

Soldotna City Council member Mike Tarr expressed concern that Eberle had not paid due attention to the city's concerns, based on two glaring mistakes in his letter.

The first instance refers to Soldotna as the "City of Kenai," the other, under those who got copies of the letter, refers to Rep. Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna, as the mayor of Kenai. Lancaster is the former mayor of Soldotna.

Those mistakes were brought to Eberle's attention by Boedeker's assistant, Kathy Langfitt.

Boedeker said he will probably follow up with Eberle.

"But I don't expect anything more will happen," Boedeker said Monday. "I doubt they'll respond any further."

Mullen is not finished, though.

"Obviously, the council will have to just keep after these guys."

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