City tries to make Riverside safe

Residents, officials consider options to deal with speeding, traffic volume and pedestrians

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2001

Mendenhall Valley residents want the city to address speed, pedestrian safety and other traffic issues along the Riverside Drive corridor as consultants work on a long-range traffic plan for the area.

About 30 people attended a meeting about Riverside Drive traffic on Thursday. According to consultants, the part of Riverside Drive closest to Egan Drive sees 10,800 car trips a day. At the north end of Riverside, the figure is about 10 percent of that 1,800 trips daily. Speed studies are now under way.

Todd Slind of the engineering firm CH2M Hill, which is researching Riverside Drive traffic for the city, said lighting, sidewalks, crosswalks and routes to connect neighborhood streets are being discussed. Other considerations include new pullouts for cars and buses that drop people off, increased bus service and improving the pavement, he said.

The study will evaluate traffic needs for the Dimond Park complex. Plans call for a new high school, community center and more ball fields in the area, which will lead to increased traffic, city Engineering Director John Stone said.

Paul Arnoldt, who lives on Cloverdale Street, said he has attended three or four meetings over the years about Riverside Drive traffic and not much has changed. People drive through other neighborhood streets to avoid speed bumps at the north end of Riverside Drive, he said.

"It's a major road dumping (traffic) into a residential area," he said. "Speed bumps only will divert traffic."

Resident Jeff DeSmet said the problems along Riverside Drive are related to density and planning, and many of the proposed solutions are Band-Aid approaches. Closing the Mint Way connection to Back Loop Road would help, he said.

Neighbor Larry Buzzell said the speed limit on Riverside Drive needs to be changed starting at Melvin Park so drivers gradually slow down to 25 miles per hour. Riverside Drive has two personalities, he said.

"There's a residential section and an arterial section with no homes," he said. "It's not OK to have a major arterial through a neighborhood. Speeding cars in a school zone is a recipe for disaster."

Increasing the attractiveness of alternate arterial roads, such as Mendenhall Loop Road, or building a bridge across the Mendenhall River to River Road near Melvin Park are longer-term solutions, Buzzell said.

The city has $65,000 from the state to evaluate traffic issues in the area. Stone said a draft plan will be delivered to the Assembly's Public Works and Facilities Committee in about a month for discussion. The public is invited to submit written comments to the city's engineering department, he said.

Riverside Drive residents also suggested the city install stop signs and improve traffic enforcement along the corridor.

Other possible solutions include extending Riverside Drive to Mendenhall Loop Road or creating a series of turns to slow down drivers. Additionally, the school district could further stagger school start times, encourage staff and students at the new high school to carpool, or make that school a closed campus to eliminate mid-day student trips, the consultants suggested.

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Empire reporter Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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