By Carey Restino
Anyone who has ever sat on the south side of the Main Street and Sterling Highway intersection trying to turn west and head out of town can tell you, it is no easy feat. In the summer, it’s virtually impossible to cross the road. But in a town that only got its first official traffic light nine years ago, the question of how to fix the newly erupting traffic snarls remains.
A meeting to discuss improving highway safety at the Sterling Highway and Main Street will be held Tuesday at the City of Homer council chambers from 4-7 p.m. The meeting is facilitated by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and organizers say their goal is to lay out three design options and get feedback from the community on each of them.
While two of the options include a traffic signal, the third is a roundabout, an option that has come up several times in Homer’s history, always with great debate.
Carla Smith, project manager for the department, said roundabouts typically get a 50-50 response, but in places like Anchorage, several have been installed with relative success. In the Main Street and Sterling Highway location, a roundabout might prove more difficult because of the grade of the surrounding land and the need to acquire right-of-ways. On the southwest side of the intersection, the land drops off, while land on the northwest corner next to NAPA is steeply banked already.
Smith said roundabouts don’t have to be positioned directly in the center of existing intersections and can be skewed slightly to allow for easier installation.
“We might be able to reduce the impacts by shifting the roundabout slightly,” she said.
But even with the shift, the price tag for Homer to get its first roundabout would be $4 million versus $2 million for a traffic signal installation. If a traffic signal is preferred as an alternative, there is the option of also adding a left turning lane, she said. The estimated costs include total project costs, with design, right-of-way purchases and construction.
Smith said the department has yet to choose a preferred alternative to recommend, though it is getting close. Once an alternative is chosen, the project will move into the design phase. The money needed to construct the traffic calming tactic, however, must still be acquired.
Smith said the department has already studied traffic patterns in the area, including turning movements and past crash history at the intersection.
“We look at the impacts each alternative will have as well as the project costs and that’s how we come up with a recommended solution,” she said.
This isn’t the first time funding has been appropriated for the intersection, said Homer City Manager Walt Wrede. But funds that were appropriated to the intersection were re-appropriated to other projects when it became apparent that the department had more funding to put toward it at their disposal.
This will be, Smith said, the last public meeting on the subject, though residents can submit public comments for a period of time after the meeting. More information on how to submit your comments will be available following the meeting.
For more information, contact Anne Broooks at 866-535-1877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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