My Turn: Looking for solutions to traffic problems in Valley

Posted: Thursday, November 06, 2003

Since 1985 I have been a resident of Juneau, living in the Valley off of Loop Road all of that time. Like many other Valley residents I travel Loop Road every day. Other than Egan Drive, Loop Road has got to be the busiest road in town. So much, we even have three traffic signals on the road with the outlook for another darn one at Valley Boulevard and Loop Road. But this letter is not about traffic signals, but about improving the safety of Loop Road.

Instead of just whining about it, I hope to offer ideas to the people who can do something about it. These are not just my ideas, but ideas I've heard from other residents.

One of the first things you learn about living in a forest is that it seems darker. At 7 a.m. it is dark on Loop Road. Even the limited streetlights don't help. You can't see people very well even on the bike paths. Pedestrians are usually in the shadows, even at the crosswalks of Floyd Dryden, Loop and Stephen Richards, Loop Road and Atlin, and even Loop Road and Egan Drive - all shadows. Add a little rain to darkness and it's near impossible to see people entering crosswalks.

Possible solution: Add lighting to eliminate these shadows, meaning the corners of the intersections. Maybe more white light, less yellow light at the crosswalks. Lighting on corners maybe 10 to 15 feet behind these intersections. Lighting placed about half the height of normal streetlights. Give drivers a chance to react and maybe avoid an accident.

I leave for work just before 7 a.m. from Grant Street. If I leave for work a few minutes late, I'm 15 minutes behind because I'm waiting behind high school buses, sometimes three of them. Some of those lines of cars must run a mile behind. Only once have I seen a bus pull over to let cars go by. But that doesn't bother me as much as why are the buses stopping on one of the busiest throughways in Juneau, Loop Road?

It's probably the most convenience, but not the safest. Is it safe for my kid to wait for the bus in pitch darkness? Is it safe for her to cross the road from Grant, Kimberly, Thunder Mountain, Valley Boulevard, etc. to catch that bus? Is it safe to wait next to the city bus stops? Is it safe that my kid is waiting on the side of one of the busiest roads without concrete barricades in these locations, be it a school bus stop or city bus stop?

Barricades can be placed in such a way to improve safety should (and hope it never happens) a driver loses control of their vehicle. But why do the school buses have to stop on Loop Road? What about a bus stop on the corners of Taku and Aspen, maybe Grant and Brothers Street, Valley Boulevard and Delta Boulevard? Why do any school children, be it kindergarten to 12th grade need to get in and out of a school bus from second-busiest road in town, Loop Road? Questions the School Board needs to address.

An elementary age student need never have to walk across Loop Road to attend school. Glacier Valley School should only accept students living between Nancy Street and Garnet Street. Only students on the Thunder Mountain side of Loop Road should attend GVS. As to the crosswalk at Floyd Dryden, thank God for the fantastic job the crossing guards and FDS staff do in that location. The FDS school zone still needs more lighting behind the crosswalk. I think a tunnel under Loop Road may be the safest, but most costly, solution to this school zone.

Some of these ideas may not be practical and will cost money. Nor do I want to point fingers. My purpose is to bring up some ideas and solutions for relieving congestion and improve safety of Loop Road.

• Dave Hurlbut has lived in the Mendenhall Valley since 1985.

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