Alaska DOT&PF lists two options for Sawmill Creek Road bike/ped improvements project

There are power poles in the middle of the sidewalk and shrubs from the yards of area houses creeping into the sidewalk on Sawmill Creek Road across from Baranof Elementary School and the Elks Lodge. Note the pedestrian under the speed limit sign to get a scale of how tight things are when you try to get by the poles.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has proposed two options for the Sawmill Creek Road resurfacing and pedestrian improvements project between the roundabout and Jeff Davis Street.

The proposal was announced at a poorly advertised open house on Monday, May 8, at Harrigan Centennial Hall (there was no mention of the meeting in the Friday, May 5, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel), when DOT staff from Juneau showed maps and diagrams detailing the two options. The DOT staff was supposed to give a report at the Tuesday, May 9, meeting of the Sitka Assembly, but the report was tabled to a later meeting when the Assembly shrank the meeting agenda to time-sensitive items only following the weekend shooting death of a city employee by another city employee.

“We’re just looking for public input, what people like and what people don’t like,” Colleen Ivaniszek, a designer and engineering assistant with DOT told the Daily Sitka Sentinel in an article in the Wednesday, May 10, edition.

“I just looked at the Assembly agenda for tomorrow (Tuesday, May 9) night and it looks like DOT is presenting two options for the design of Sawmill Creek from the Roundabout to Jeff Davis,” Sitka Trail Works Director Lynne Brandon wrote in an email shared with the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition. “It looks like they want the Assembly to choose the option. I don’t think there has been any other input from the community. This isn’t enough public process. It’s a report, so I don’t think the Assembly can make a decision at the meeting, but I think they should know that more public process is necessary and the bike-friendly option is the only way to go, not the share-road.”

The last major public meeting for this project was in December 2015 at the Sealing Cove Business Park.

This section of Sawmill Creek Road has narrow sidewalks blocked by power poles (see photo above), which prevent people in wheelchairs or using rolling walk-assist carts from being able to get by. Cyclists consider it the most dangerous section of major road in Sitka because it is the only stretch of major road without a designated bike lane or multi-use path from the ferry terminal at the end of Halibut Point Road to the industrial park at the end of Sawmill Creek Road. There also is motor vehicle parking along both sides of Sawmill Creek Road, which means cyclists have to worry about getting doored until they get past Jeff Davis Street.

“I’m really hopeful for the proposed changes to SMC Road between Baranof and Jeff Davis,” William The Giant said in a Facebook post. “I’ve been bike commuting in Sitka for about eight years now, and this small chunk of road is easily one of the most dangerous stretches for a biker in town. It might seem like a lazy little street to a driver, but for a biker it’s a choice between being firmly in traffic, or riding along in the ‘door zone’ of all the parked vehicles. It’s a no-win situation either way, since a bike accident along this road is almost guaranteed to jam up some poor driver’s axle.

“I have a baby I’m now hauling around in a bike trailer almost daily, and I absolutely dread this section of road. Honestly, I’m really surprised we’ve been providing parking to a handful of residents at the cost of safety along a major road for so long. When I read we’d only give up parking along one side of the road to create two bike lanes it sounded like a dream come true to me. Especially, since the area is being improved one way or the other, it would be strange to ‘upgrade’ it to be a new version of the same terrible layout. I will be eternally thankful to those who have to walk across the street each morning to get to their cars to make our roads safer.”

Of the two options, Option One is closest to the unacceptable status quo. In fact, it widens the driving lanes from 12 feet to 13.5 feet (and wider lanes lead to higher road speeds, which lead to more serious injuries and fatalities). It keeps the current eight-foot parking lanes on both sides of the street, but it does relocate some power poles and makes some upgrades to the sidewalk and curb ramps. This option is not an improvement for the most dangerous stretch of road and sidewalk in Sitka.

Option Two is the safer option, as it shrinks the driving lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet, eliminates the parking lane on one side of the road, and creates five-foot bike lanes on both sides of the road. This is by far the better option of the two. You can learn more about both options in the link posted at the bottom of the article.

“I agree that Option Two is the best,” Sitka cyclist Dave Nuetzel wrote in an email. “This removes parking on one side and adds two bike lanes. I also commented that bump-outs for crosswalks and a flashing crosswalk at Baranof Street are needed. … Option One with ‘shared’ lanes would basically be the same as it already is.  This stretch of highway is the only area in Sitka without a bike lane or wide shoulder. … Not sure how they plan to move cyclists from the multi-purpose path to the bike lane on the other side of the road. Currently no crosswalk at Jeff Davis.”

Girl Scout Troop 4140, which recently worked with the state and city to get a solar-powered flashing crosswalk sign for the Halibut Point Road-Peterson Street intersection, wants to see a similar flashing crosswalk sign on Sawmill Creek Road.

“Girl Scout Troop 4140 would like to have solar-powered crosswalk signs at SMC/Baranof Street (at the Baranof Elementary crosswalk) included in the design, but we need your help,” troop leader Retha Winger wrote in a Facebook post encouraging people to contact DOT about the crosswalk. “DOT is currently accepting comments about their design changes and they are requesting comments from Sitkans. You can review the design changes here, http://dot.alaska.gov/sereg/projects/sitka_sawmill_rd/index.shtml. Please send comments to Chris.Schelb@alaska.gov. PLEASE EMAIL CHRIS AND LET HIM KNOW THAT WE WANT A SOLAR-POWERED CROSSWALK AT THE BARANOF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CROSSWALK! All comments are important and appreciated. They need to hear our collective concern for the safety of our children. Thank you!”

Both options will make the intersection of DeGroff Street and Sawmill Creek Road a 90-degree turn, which will reduce car speeds as drivers leave Sawmill Creek Road for the residential DeGroff Street. Another change will move the bike path that crosses Jeff Davis Street a bit closer to the highway, so it’s easier for drivers to see the cyclists. Another plan is to improve the sidewalks by Monastery Street.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is taking public comment on the two options for the next 30 days. You can email comments to Chris.Schelb@alaska.gov, or send them by regular mail to Sawmill Creek Road Resurfacing and Pedestrian Improvements, c/o Alaska DOT&PF, P.O. Box 112506, Juneau, Alaska, 99511-2506.

• Sawmill Creek Road Resurfacing and Pedestrian Improvements Options

Walk MS Sitka on May 13 will raise money for multiple sclerosis research and awareness

Sitka will host its third Walk MS event at 10 a.m. (registration at 9:30 a.m.) on Saturday, May 13, at Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. This is the 27th anniversary of Walk MS, a national series of walks to raise money for programs and services, research, treatment and awareness of multiple sclerosis.

Walk MS Sitka will feature a 1.5-mile walk along the new coastal multi-use path from Sawmill Cove Industrial Park to Whale Park. Transportation will be available to take people back to the walk’s start line, or people can walk back to Sawmill Cove Industrial Park.

From left, Dillon Peavey, 9, Jaden Costelo 9, and Jaira Costelo, 8, lead the first Walk MS Sitka event Saturday morning, May 30, 2015. About 100 people participated in the walk from the Gary Paxton Industrial Park to Whale Park. Although donations were accepted, organizers Patricia Atkinson and Colleen Dahlquist said the event was held to raise awareness of the chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

From left, Dillon Peavey, 9, Jaden Costelo 9, and Jaira Costelo, 8, lead the first Walk MS Sitka event Saturday morning, May 30, 2015. About 100 people participated in the walk from the Gary Paxton Industrial Park to Whale Park. Although donations were accepted, organizers Patricia Atkinson and Colleen Dahlquist said the event was held to raise awareness of the chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

“People participating in the Walk MS Sitka 2017 are showing their love and support for people who are affected by multiple sclerosis,” Walk MS Sitka local coordinator Patricia Atkinson said. “People can sign up ahead of time on the Walk MS Sitka homepage, or at the walk. Donations are welcome, and stay in the Pacific Northwest to support research, education, and individuals.”

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder, in which the immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue in the central nervous system. MS can cause many symptoms, including blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness, and more. These problems may come and go or persist and worsen over time. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75 have developed it.

To register online, go to http://www.walkms.org, find the Sitka AK page (zip code 99835), and register as a team or an individual (please make sure you put Sitka in the team title when you register). People also can register onsite at the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. If you can’t make the actual walk, you still can go online and pledge your financial support. All money raised in Alaska stays in Alaska.

“Rain or shine, show your support for people living with MS and join us!” Atkinson said.

For more information, contact Patricia Atkinson in Sitka at (907) 317-0619 or contact National MS Society Community Engagement Manager Cassey Bradley-Leonardis at (907) 331-0179 or cassey.bradleyleonardis@nmss.org. You also can like the Walk MS Sitka page on Facebook to get updates.

• Multiple Sclerosis 101 (facts about MS)

Walk MS Sitka on May 21 will raise money for multiple sclerosis research and awareness

Walk MS Poster 2016

Sitka will host its second Walk MS event at 9:30 a.m. (registration at 9 a.m.) on Saturday, May 21, at Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. This is the 26th anniversary of Walk MS, a national series of walks to raise money for programs and services, research, treatment and awareness of multiple sclerosis.

Walk MS Sitka will feature a 1.5-mile walk along the new coastal multi-use path from Sawmill Cove Industrial Park to Whale Park. Transportation will be available to take people back to the walk’s start line, or people can walk back to Sawmill Cove Industrial Park.

From left, Dillon Peavey, 9, Jaden Costelo 9, and Jaira Costelo, 8, lead the first Walk MS Sitka event Saturday morning, May 30, 2015. About 100 people participated in the walk from the Gary Paxton Industrial Park to Whale Park. Although donations were accepted, organizers Patricia Atkinson and Colleen Dahlquist said the event was held to raise awareness of the chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

From left, Dillon Peavey, 9, Jaden Costelo 9, and Jaira Costelo, 8, lead the first Walk MS Sitka event Saturday morning, May 30, 2015. About 100 people participated in the walk from the Gary Paxton Industrial Park to Whale Park. Although donations were accepted, organizers Patricia Atkinson and Colleen Dahlquist said the event was held to raise awareness of the chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

“People participating in the Walk MS Sitka 2016 are showing their love and support for people who are affected by multiple sclerosis,” Walk MS Sitka local coordinator Patricia Atkinson said. “People can sign up ahead of time on the Walk MS Sitka homepage, or at the walk. Donations are welcome, and stay in the Pacific Northwest to support research, education, and individuals.”

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder, in which the immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue in the central nervous system. MS can cause many symptoms, including blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness, and more. These problems may come and go or persist and worsen over time. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75 have developed it.

To register online, go to http://www.walkms.org, find the Sitka AK page (zip code 99835), and register as a team or an individual (please make sure you put Sitka in the team title when you register). People also can register onsite at the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. If you can’t make the actual walk, you still can go online and pledge your financial support. All money raised in Alaska stays in Alaska.

“Rain or shine, show your support for people living with MS and join us!” Atkinson said.

For more information, contact Patricia Atkinson in Sitka at (907) 317-0619 or contact National MS Society Community Engagement Manager Cassey Bradley-Leonardis at (907) 331-0179 or cassey.bradleyleonardis@nmss.org. You also can like the Walk MS Sitka page on Facebook to get updates.

• Multiple Sclerosis 101 (facts about MS)

 

Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project nearing completion, with a safer biking and walking path

edgecumbe-drive-rendering

10-24-13-Edgecumbe-Drive-sign-e1382728578427The Edgecumbe Drive Reconstruction Project is nearly ready for paving and completion, according to a Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, cover story in the Daily Sitka Sentinel (note, password required to view story on website). The article also highlighted the safer biking and walking facilities on the mile-long stretch of road, which include safer crosswalks, a multi-use path, and Sitka’s second roundabout (or third, if you count the one around St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral).

The project includes a new 10-foot-wide multi-use path on one side of the street for pedestrians and cyclists. The path is intended to provide a safe route for slow-moving bikes and pedestrians to travel. Edgecumbe Drive’s proximity to Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School was a major driver in the decision to provide this pedestrian amenity.

The new separated multi-use path replaces a narrow bike path on the downhill side of the roadway. The now-10-foot-wide path, which uses space from the narrowed traffic lanes, will be shared by cyclists and walkers.

“We didn’t like it because it encouraged wrong-way bike travel,” David Longtin, senior engineer with the City and Borough of Sitka Public Works Department, told the Sentinel. “People wanted to use the bike path, but when they were heading north then they were on the wrong side of the road, and that’s something we wanted to eliminate.”

City and state law require bicyclists to ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, for safety reasons. Walkers are to walk on the left side of the road, opposing traffic, when there isn’t a sidewalk or multi-use path available. Cyclists traveling at traffic speed can use the road, but should ride on the right side.

Longtin said paving on the path may start as soon as Saturday, if weather cooperates. Paving the main road will follow after the path is completed. Longtin told the Daily Sitka Sentinel that the construction crews can pave about 150 linear feet per hour, so the whole street should be paved within a week, depending on the weather.

Another new feature is a roundabout near the top of Kimsham Street, near where Edgecumbe Drive, Washusetts, Kimsham, and private driveway meet. The roundabout was added to the plans about a month ago, and it replaces the five-way intersection originally in the plans. While there is some increased cost ($140,000 to the $4.6 million project), Longtin said the roundabout will be a safer alternative. Roundabouts reduce collisions by 37 percent and fatal wrecks by 90 percent compared to intersections controlled by stop signs, according to Federal Highway Administration studies.

“It’ll cost some, but we feel it’ll be a good safety improvement and it’ll keep traffic moving,” Longtin said. “There’s fewer collisions and when there is a collision it’s more of a glancing blow than a t-bone collision.”

Other safety improvements from the project include bulb-outs at the Edgecumbe Drive crosswalks near Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School (which narrow the traffic lanes near intersections to slow cars and make it a shorter distance for pedestrians to cross), and rectangular rapid-flash beacons to to warn drivers of the crosswalk. There also will be buttons on all four corners of the intersection that will light the beacons so drivers know somebody is about to use the crosswalk. These traffic lights are powered by solar panels designed for Sitka’s latitude and light conditions.

Sitka National Historical Park adds downtown Russian-American history walk to its offerings

EaglePairOnStMichaelsCross

SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSignThe Sitka National Historical Park offers a series of short hikes within the park detailing Sitka’s history and culture. Now the park is expanding its offerings with a free Russian-American history downtown walking tour starting this week.

These tours will give participants a chance to learn more about Sitka’s Russian heritage and its role as the administrative capital of Russian America. Tours will begin at the Russian Bishop’s House and end on top of Castle Hill. Stops along the way will include St. Michael’s Cathedral, Building 29 (Log Cache Gift Shop), and the Russian blockhouse.

The first downtown Russian-American history walks will be at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 17, and at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 18. The hike is about a half mile and takes about an hour. Weekly schedules for these walks will be posted around town, at the park, on the park website, and in the Daily Sitka Sentinel.

For more information, contact the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center at 747-0110.

RAWT FlierFinal 6.15

Sitka Sea Walk starting to take shape, but project not finished yet

Sarah and Eric Jordan check out the boats in Crescent Harbor while taking a hike on the Sitka Sea Walk on Tuesday, Sept. 10, (Photo by Charles Bingham)

Sarah and Eric Jordan check out the boats in Crescent Harbor while taking a hike on the Sitka Sea Walk on Tuesday, Sept. 10, (Photo by Charles Bingham)

SEA WALK WORK – CBC Construction’s Frank Kimball moves rocks near the Sitka Sound Science Center the morning of April 13,. Work has begun on the $1.22 million sea walk project including the stretch of sidewalk near the center that had dead-ended at the Crescent Harbor breakwater. The CBC bid for the scenic walk was so far below the estimated cost that five optional additional improvements were added to the project. The project will widen the sidewalk along Crescent Harbor, connect it to a new walkway in front of the Sitka Sound Science Center and add a walkway along the beach to Sitka National Historical Park. The add ons include using Alaska yellow cedar instead of treated lumber for the boardwalk; a walkway spur atop the eastern breakwater of Crescent Harbor; installing site lighting; improving Crescent Park drainage, and adding a trail from the basketball court to the entrance of the SJ Campus. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

SEA WALK WORK – CBC Construction’s Frank Kimball moves rocks near the Sitka Sound Science Center the morning of April 13,. Work has begun on the $1.22 million sea walk project including the stretch of sidewalk near the center that had dead-ended at the Crescent Harbor breakwater. The CBC bid for the scenic walk was so far below the estimated cost that five optional additional improvements were added to the project. The project will widen the sidewalk along Crescent Harbor, connect it to a new walkway in front of the Sitka Sound Science Center and add a walkway along the beach to Sitka National Historical Park. The add ons include using Alaska yellow cedar instead of treated lumber for the boardwalk; a walkway spur atop the eastern breakwater of Crescent Harbor; installing site lighting; improving Crescent Park drainage, and adding a trail from the basketball court to the entrance of the SJ Campus. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Sections of the new Sitka Sea Walk are nearing completion, even though there is still much work to be done before the new coastal walking path from Harrigan Centennial Hall to the Sitka National Historical Park is finished.

The section of the Sitka Sea Walk that connects to the Crescent Harbor parking lot and Harrigan Centennial Hall is mostly done, and people already are using this section. There also is a completed section in front of the Sitka Sound Science Center.

However, construction crews still are excavating the part of the Sitka Sea Walk that drops from the road down to the beach near Sitka National Historical Park.  The section by the basketball and tennis courts also isn’t ready for foot traffic.

The Sitka Assembly awarded the contract to CBC Construction in March, and city officials were able to add five add-ons to the project because the winning bid was so low. The project is funded by cruise tax money and construction is expected to continue into the summer. Click here for more information about the project.

Sitka gives open streets a try as part of Sitka Downtown Revitalization project

DANCING IN THE STREET – New Archangel Dancers Stacey Woolsey and Angela McGraw dance arm-in-arm this morning in front of St. Michael’s Cathedral. Two blocks of central Lincoln Street were closed to vehicles from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today as part of an experiment to make the town more attractive and safer for tourists. The closure allowed street vendors to fill the space and non-profits such as the dancers to perform. Lincoln Street from in front of Ben Franklin to Barracks Street will again be blocked off June 19 and 26 and July 3. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, http://sitkasentinel.com/7/images/frontpageimage/naddowntownws.jpg)

DANCING IN THE STREET – New Archangel Dancers Stacey Woolsey and Angela McGraw dance arm-in-arm this morning in front of St. Michael’s Cathedral. Two blocks of central Lincoln Street were closed to vehicles from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today as part of an experiment to make the town more attractive and safer for tourists. The closure allowed street vendors to fill the space and non-profits such as the dancers to perform. Lincoln Street from in front of Ben Franklin to Barracks Street will again be blocked off June 19 and 26 and July 3. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, http://sitkasentinel.com/7/images/frontpageimage/naddowntownws.jpg)

Two blocks of downtown Sitka were closed off to cars on Wednesday, June 12, to allow tourists and locals to shop and enjoy the downtown. This is the first of four straight Wednesdays (June 12, 19, 26 and July 3) where the streets will be open to pedestrians and bikers from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. as an experiment being tried by the Sitka Downtown Revitalization and Walk Sitka projects that came out of the 2012 Sitka Health Summit.

Closing off downtown streets to traffic and opening them up to walkers, bikers and play is a concept being tried in many communities around the country. Called Open Streets, the basic premise is a local street festival designed to draw people downtown where they can shop, be entertained and interact with their neighbors. Open Streets events also can be farmers markets, arts/music festivals and more.

This isn’t the first time Sitka has closed off downtown streets to traffic and opened them up for walkers and bikers, but previous closures usually were tied to special events such as the End Of Season Celebration/Running of the Boots race or parades. There also have been occasional sidewalk sales or trick-or-treating events that saw downtown streets opened for pedestrians.

Cyndy Gibson organized Wednesday’s pedestrian mall for the Sitka Downtown Revitalization project, and she made this comment in a KCAW-Raven Radio story aired Wednesday night:

For a couple of reasons. One is to encourage more time in the downtown area, and more shopping. When you have more of a unique one-of-a-kind experience when you’re traveling, you’re more inclined to maybe shop for something a little more expensive, or a little more meaningful.

Future Open Streets events in Sitka will feature musicians from the Sitka Summer Music Festival and the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, as well as other entertainment.