By Greta Mart/KHNS
Pedestrian signs were recently placed on Skagway’s State Street with the goal of improving safety on a road busy with vehicles and people. That comes a few months after more than 100 Skagway residents signed a petition asking for a crosswalk on State and Sixth.
The decision to paint a crosswalk is up to the Alaska Department of Transportation, because the state owns State Street. They’ll get a sense of the traffic at that intersection soon.
DOT staff fanned out across Southeast Alaska last week, laying down slender black lines across state roadways large and small. Called pneumatic road tubes, they measure the speeds and number of vehicles that drive on each road.
In Skagway, along with measuring car traffic, DOT staff also counted pedestrians.
“We actually just had a person with the department up there last week monitoring pedestrian activity and we’ll use that information and incorporate into the design for the new project for State Street,” said DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow.
Woodrow says work on a resurfacing and reconstruction project planned for Skagway’s State Street likely won’t begin until 2017. And until then, it’s unlikely the department will install new pedestrian crosswalks along the busy thoroughfare.
“The Department has heard the community’s concerns and we’re definitely evaluating those concerns as part of this project. And if a crosswalk is warranted in one or more areas on State Street we will incorporate that into the new design,” said Woodrow.
This spring, Skagway resident Cheryl Barger began a campaign for the installation of a crosswalk at the intersection of State Street and Sixth Street. She wants to make it safer for people, including her sister, who has a disability, to cross in front of their house. In April, 139 residents signed Barger’s petition supporting the crosswalk and Barger sent it to DOT officials.
“They had some reluctance to that. So she asked the municipality to assist and we did, we asked the state what they could do about it and advocated for a crosswalk,” said Skagway Mayor Mark Schaefer.
“So far what we see is they put in a couple of…and we can see them both but can’t read them from here…put in a couple of pictorial signs on people crossing,” said Schaefer as he stood on the corner of the busy intersection on a recent Friday.
Four yellow, diamond-shaped signs now stand along the roadway. The Skagway Traditional Council paid for the signs, with money set aside for transportation-related costs for the community. Council Administrator Sara Kinjo-Hischer says the Council was happy to help improve pedestrian safety.
DOT workers installed the signs recently. Woodrow says when it comes to pedestrian safety, crosswalks aren’t always the best solution.
“Sometimes it’s safer for a pedestrian to not have a marked crosswalk and to do what we all learned in grade school which is to stop, look in both directions and proceed if safe. Sometimes when there is a marked crosswalk, pedestrians feel that they have a sense of security and they can just walk into the street without having to obey by those rules,” said Woodrow.
Mayor Schaefer continues to support the crosswalk request. He says congestion has gotten worse in recent years and he thinks crosswalks might help make the community safer.