Drivers will need to slow down on the north end of Riverside Drive, one of the main through streets in the Mendenhall Valley.
Juneau Assembly members on Wednesday decided to reduce the speed limit on Riverside Drive north of Division Street from 35 to 25 mph. The 20 mph limit at the end of Riverside Drive will not change.
City Streets Superintendent Mike Scott said new signs probably will go up in the next two weeks. The price tag should be under $1,000, he said.
Lower speed limits and more enforcement have been recommended by neighbors and a new traffic study. Riverside Drive resident Larry Buzzell said he was pleased with the decision.
"By lowering the speed limit, all residents will breathe a sigh of relief. But only if drivers of the cars obey the posted speed limit will it reduce the hazards here," he said.
Assembly members also approved a recommendation to install a street light near the Mendenhall River Community
Elementary School. In the past, neighbors had paid for a light, but stopped, leaving a dark hole, Buzzell said.
"The whole thing is about kids' safety," he said.
Assembly member Cathy Munoz said it might take time for people to become educated about the new speed limit, but the change was needed to keep children safe.
Assembly member Don Etheridge also agreed with the change.
"We can't do enforcement if we don't take the first step and reduce the speed limit," he said.
Public Works Director Ernie Mueller said people have been interested in north Riverside Drive traffic, but he doesn't want to lose focus on the southern half, closer to Egan Drive, where more accidents occur. A lighting study along the Riverside Drive corridor is needed, he added.
The city hired consultants CH2M Hill to study traffic along Riverside Drive this summer and a draft plan was released in August. Engineering Director John Stone said there are other short-term solutions the city may implement. For example, landscaping, median strips or other traffic-slowing devices could be used on north Riverside Drive, he said.
Riverside Drive can handle speeds of 40 mph, according to the study. The trouble is that the southern half of Riverside is an urban arterial road and the northern half is a residential street, Buzzell said.
The study also recommends school officials be enlisted to help with traffic concerns near the Mendenhall River school. Another short-term solution is to cut down overgrown vegetation at intersections north of Division and near Stephen Richards Memorial Drive to improve visibility, the study said.
"There are issues the city can go ahead with relatively easily. Others are expensive and time consuming. It's not going to be a quick fix, but there's a lot of interest in making progress and not more studies," said Jane Gendron, a project manager with CH2M Hill.
Long-term solutions, such as building a bridge over the Mendenhall River near Melvin Park, will require additional public review, Stone said. The city is accepting comments on the draft Riverside Drive traffic plan until Oct. 11. Copies are available at the city engineering department, libraries downtown and in the Mendenhall Valley and at www.juneau.lib.ak.us/engineering/.
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