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Slow down or hit a big bump at glacier

New, temporary speed cushions are in to keep speeds down

Posted: May 9, 2014 - 12:08am
U.S. Forest Service employees Taylor Murph, left, and Art Dee watch how drivers react to new "speed cushions" installed in a new 20 mile per hour zone at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center on Wednesday.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
U.S. Forest Service employees Taylor Murph, left, and Art Dee watch how drivers react to new "speed cushions" installed in a new 20 mile per hour zone at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center on Wednesday.

If you’re cruising along Glacier Spur Road on your way to the Mendenhall Glacier too fast, you’ll quickly realize it.

Two sets of temporary speed cushions have been installed on the road to the glacier and seem to be doing their job, said lead Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center naturalist Laurie Craig. On Wednesday afternoon, locals sped over the first set of cushions, some becoming airborne, she said, but they would slow down for the second set.

“It’s one of those really interesting things watching how people respond,” she said.

The area has always been a speed trap, Craig said. In 2008, a bear was hit by a speeding car. Luckily, the bear was back on its feet an hour later.

“Heaven forbid if that should happen with a person,” she said.

The Juneau Police Department did weeklong traffic studies in June and August last year, center director John Neary said in a previous Empire report, and found that 43 percent of vehicles were speeding on the last stretch of road where the posted limit is 20 miles per hour.

The cushions are meant to improve safety, Craig said. They’re a reminder to visitors, “while they’re enjoying the beautiful view, look down at the road surface,” she said.

The Alaska Department of Transportation put in the temporary rubber cushions, made from recycled tires, and will remove them at the end of tourist season. Craig said the visitor center has alerted bus and taxi companies but wants to get the word out to locals.

“We want it to be safe for everybody so everyone can enjoy this amazing place,” she said.

Craig also wanted to remind locals to be bear-aware when visiting the glacier right now. Cubs have just been born, and mothers are territorial, she said. Bears have been spotted on the Nugget Falls Trail and the East Glacier Trail. Dog walkers should keep their pets leashed, she said, to avoid any unwanted interactions with mama bears.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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