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Soldotna traffic flow raising concerns

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2001

The city of Soldotna got a look at the final draft of its new master plan for roads and trails in and around the city.

Engineer Mike Tauriainen and his associates presented the plan to the city council at Wednesday night's council meeting. A final plan will be presented at the council's Aug. 22 meeting.

Some of the options the report suggests are ambitious and would require state cooperation.

They include installing new stop lights or, alternately, what are called roundabouts in four major arterial intersections where Binkley and Kobuk streets cross Redoubt and Marydale avenues.

While street lights would be feasible in the future, they bring with them long delays and what Tauriainen called inequitable handling of turning traffic.

Tauriainen described a roundabout as an intersection with a 50-foot circular barrier in the middle, which vehicles would have to circumnavigate. For instance, a car driving north on Kobuk wanting to turn left onto Redoubt, would go right and then 270 degrees, or three-quarters, around the roundabout.

"Roundabouts tend not to have as many accidents," he said, compared to intersections with traffic lights.

The accidents that do occur in roundabouts, he added, are the less severe side-by-side mishaps, compared with the more severe T-bone and rear-end accidents in lighted intersections.

Council member Jane Stein could be seen shaking her head no and giving the thumbs-down signal at the idea.

"I've seen those in Dayton, Ohio, and Indianapolis and they are a real nightmare," she said.

"If they are poorly designed, they are," said traffic engineer Randy Kinney, who participated in the meeting via speakerphone. "New designs from Europe and Australia are catching on here."

Tauriainen added that traffic signals cost about $10,000 a year to maintain, where roundabouts require much less maintenance.

The study did not address intersections with the Sterling Highway, as the state is counting traffic there and the data is not yet available. As a result, there are no recommendations for additional traffic lights there. The city and many concerned citizens have lobbied the state to install lights and crosswalks at South Birch Street and Kobuk where they meet the highway.

Another aspect of the study suggested a connection between Riggs Avenue to Frontier Avenue to provide a direct route between Mackey Lake Road and the Kenai Spur Highway. A new artery there would reduce congestion at the Y of the Sterling Highway and the Spur, allowing Kenai-bound traffic easier passage. It would also open currently inaccessible land to development.

A second crossing of the Kenai River from Soldotna had several permutations. One would extend Spruce Avenue across to Beaver Dam Avenue and extend to West Point Avenue. It has the advantage of being an extension of Frontier and could give Mackey Lake residents a nearly straight shot to Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Another could cross just south of there on Knight Drive to Paulk Avenue on the west side. A third suggestion is a crossing at Marydale to Bonita Avenue.

The fourth, and most likely location, though it would increase traffic through major residential neighborhoods, would extend West Redoubt across the river to East Poppy Lane, next to the Kenai Peninsula College campus. It would be a straight line between Kalifornsky Beach and Redoubt Elementary schools and Soldotna Middle School.

Motorists and bicyclists would not have to cross the river on the Sterling Highway and would have about thee miles cut off their journey to Kenai.

Another thought discussed regarding the four-lane Binkley Street was to make it three lanes, with the center being the turning lane. This also would allow for wider curb areas for bicyclists.

The city will use the 20-year traffic master plan to identify needs and guide planning and aid funding efforts for road and trail improvements.



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