Cheryl Barger lives on the corner of State Street and Sixth Avenue.
“Since we’ve been talking, I’m standing here looking out the window, I’ve seen five huge tour buses go by,” Barger says one recent morning.
The traffic isn’t a problem, Barger says. She’s used to the tourism boom of the summer, with hundreds of thousands of pedestrians walking the town and the buses that carries those visitors. There’s also industrial traffic through town to the ore terminal.
But there is one thing missing from the road – a crosswalk. Barger took her case to the Skagway Assembly last week.
“I’m here to reiterate my desire to have crosswalks put on State Street because of the increased amount of traffic we’ve had over the last 30 years,” she told the assembly.
Barger isn’t the only one who wants to see more crosswalks on State Street. She recently spent six days collecting more than 100 signatures on a petition she turned into city hall. The assembly is supportive of her request, but it’s not their not decision. That street is aptly named. It’s owned by the state. And only the state can decide whether to paint a crosswalk on it.
“Basically how busy is the street to necessitate a crosswalk in this area? That is something the department evaluates anytime we do a road project,” said state Department of Transportation spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow.
He says one of the reasons the state might be hesitant to install a crosswalk is because State Street is slated for repaving in 2017. But they are already planning for what features – like crosswalks – might be included in that project in two years.
“So we just had engineers in Skagway a couple of weeks ago walking State Street and looking at how crosswalks could be added,” Woodrow said. “So it’s something we definitely are considering but we can’t just go out there and immediate put in signage, paint the lines and do it arbitrarily.”
Woodrow says the price of a crosswalk is nominal, but the state still needs a reason to install one.
Barger has a reason. Her adult sister, Bianca, who lives with her, has a disability and uses a walker. As Barger told the Skagway assembly last week, her sister has trouble crossing the street.
“My sister is slow as a turtle and she cannot dash across the street,” Barger said.
Barger says she no longer feels comfortable with Bianca crossing State Street alone, which limits her sister’s mobility and affects her lifestyle.
“There are a couple of activities she can go to that are on this side of the street but her main activities are all on the other side of the street,” Barger said. “She tells me she feels like a prisoner in her home. She can’t go anyway unless someone comes and takes her and goes with her.”
Barger says she’s not sure a crosswalk alone will get drivers’ attention. She originally asked the state to install a stop sign at Sixth and State. Barger is hoping for some sort of signage along with a painted crosswalk at the intersection.
At the assembly meeting last week, some members suggested the city could put their own signs on the corner to encourage safe pedestrian crossing. Woodrow, with the DOT, says that depends on how far the state’s right-of-way extends on each side of the street, and that answer wasn’t immediately available.
Barger’s petition motivated the assembly to keep after the state for a crosswalk. The city is drafting letters to the DOT with copies to go to Sen. Dennis Egan and Rep. Sam Kito. Barger and the assembly hope to get a crosswalk sooner than 2017.