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

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SAIL turns Only Fools Run At Midnight fun run over to CoastAlaska and KCAW in Sitka

oframracestartsitka

Only Fools Run at Midnight SitkaSoutheast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL), the organization behind the much-loved costumed fun run fundraiser, Only Fools Run at Midnight, is passing the reins to CoastAlaska Inc. public media.

SAIL has organized the race to run simultaneously in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka for more than a decade. This year SAIL will help organize the 12th annual Only Fools Run At Midnight races with KTOO in Juneau, KCAW-Raven Radio in Sitka and KRBD in Ketchikan. Proceeds will be shared between the organizations during this transition year.

“It was a challenging decision for us. The race is so much fun and we love putting it on. Ultimately though, we decided that we wanted to focus our efforts and staff time on our mission: Inspiring personal independence for seniors and people with disabilities living in Southeast Alaska. We are excited to pass the torch to (CoastAlaska) public media and help with the transition this year,” said Joan O’Keefe, SAIL Executive Director.

SAIL is a Center for Independent Living and an Aging and Disability Resource Center serving people with disabilities of all ages and seniors throughout Southeast Alaska. SAIL has offices in Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka and Haines.

“We think this is a perfect fit for the public radio stations. The race will allow us to connect with our listeners and supporters through a fun and creative community event. We are thankful to the SAIL Board for choosing us and are looking forward to organizing the event,” said Mollie Kabler, Executive Director of CoastAlaska Inc.

“Raven Radio is happy to help sustain this healthy, creative community tradition!” said Ken Fate, Station Manager at KCAW-Raven Radio.

CoastAlaska supports and provides resources for public broadcasting organizations throughout the state. In Southeast, KCAW-Raven Radio, KTOO and KRBD are all members of the CoastAlaska family of stations.

The race will be held at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, in Juneau and Ketchikan, and at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 20, in Sitka. The Sitka race will start and finish at the Sitka Fire Hall, and there will be a five-kilometer (3.1-mile) fun run or one-mile walking course.

Registration materials are available at Old Harbor Books, First Bank, the SAIL office (514 Lake Street), and the KCAW-Raven Radio office in the Cable House. You also can pre-register online at the KCAW website, or by clicking this link (online pre-registration is the preferred method). Pre-registration ends on June 18, and day-of-race registration starts at 10:30 p.m. at the Sitka Fire Hall. The registration fee is $20 per person, and the first 100 to register receive a t-shirt. In addition to prizes for the fastest finishers, there will be prizes for the best costumes (including centipede costumes connecting five or more runners/walkers). Costume judging runs from 11-11:45 p.m.

For more information about the Sitka event, call the KCAW-Raven Radio main number at 747-5877 or email foolsrun@kcaw.org. If you are interested in donating to support the event, please contact Justin Shoman at CoastAlaska in Juneau at 1-907-463-6422 or justins@coastalaska.org.

If you would like more information about SAIL and the ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program, please contact Tristan Knutson-Lombardo in Juneau at 907-586-4920 or email at tlombardo@sailinc.org, or contact Dave Nuetzel or Bridget Kratz in the Sitka office at 747-6859.

• Sitka Only Fools Run At Midnight Registration Form 2015

SAIL to host workshop on how to pack for a day hike during the summer

day hiking

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) will host a free workshop on how to pack for a summer day hike from 1-2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, at the SAIL office, 514 Lake Street, Suite C. The class will be taught by Dave Nuetzel.

Hiking in Southeast Alaska’s wet climate can be tough on planning. Do you really need to carry a jacket, even if it’s warm right now? How much water should I bring? What else do I need, and what should I leave at home?

If you don’t plan right, you could face troubles later. Each year hikers have to be helped from the mountains around Sitka because they left a jacket home and then it started raining. Other times, people take too much gear and having to carry extra weight isn’t very fun. This workshop will give you the basics, so you have a safe and fun hike.

For more information, contact SAIL ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program coordinator Bridget Kratz at 747-6859 or email her at bkratz@sailinc.org. The calendar below includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other SAIL events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• April 2015 calendar of Sitka SAIL ORCA events

SAIL announces a summer of hiking, kayaking, and other outdoors activities, including Only Fools Run at Midnight

OFRAMRaceStartSitka

Hiking clubs, walking groups, kayaking events, youth adventure clubs, picnics, and the annual Only Fools Run At Midnight fundraiser are just some of the numerous outdoors activities offered this summer by the Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL).

In June, SAIL teamed up with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Elder Physical Activity Program and the Sitka Pioneer Home to launch a new weekly hiking group for seniors. The group hosts relatively easy hikes from 10:15-11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays at various locations around Sitka, and local seniors, their families and caregivers are encouraged to bring their lunches for a picnic after the walk. Click this link for more info and contacts.

SAIL’s next Senior Hiking Club monthly hike will be from 9:15-11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 26. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the trailhead, which will be determined by the group on the day of the hike. Local biologist Kitty LaBounty will join the monthly hike in June.

SAIL offers Senior Hiking Club events for those age 60 or older once a month, usually on the second or third Wednesday. There is a $5 fee, but nobody will be turned away because of finances. The hikes are open to people of all abilities and fitness levels. To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, check out our January 2013 post introducing the club. For more information, contact SAIL ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program coordinator Alli Gabbert at 747-6859 or email her at agabbert@sailinc.org (Note, Bridget Kratz will replace Alli as the SAIL ORCA program coordinator/Jesuit Volunteer later this summer).

OFRAMLogoOnBlackIn addition, the 11th annual Only Fools Run At Midnight costumed fun run/fundraiser for SAIL starts at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, at the Sitka Fire Hall. The 5-kilometer fun run and 1-mile walk are open to anybody, and costumes are encouraged. Please pre-register by 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 19, at the SAIL office (514 Lake St.), the Hames Center, Old Harbor Books, or First Bank, or you can enter on the day of the race starting at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, at the Sitka Fire Hall. Minors need parental permission to participate. Registration is $10 for youth (17 or younger), $20 for adults, and $50 for families of four. You can register by clicking this link, and going to the Sitka listing, or by contacting Dave Nuetzel at dnuetzel@sailinc.org or 747-6859

Samsing Kayak FlyerSAIL also started its senior kayaking program in April for seniors (age 60 and older only). The next session is from noon to 4 p.m. on Monday, June 30, at a location TBA (on the ocean), and the event is open to seniors of all experience levels. This event has an activity fee of $25 (scholarships are available). There also will be a three-day kayaking trip to Samsing Cove on July 12-14. The cost for the Samsing Cove trip is $450, with a deposit of $225 due by June 30.

Finally, SAIL will host a community picnic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, at Halibut Point Recreation Area. This event is open to all members of the community. SAIL will provide the grillables, but everybody is asked to bring a side dish or dessert to share.

To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club and and a variety of other outdoors skills and survival classes, contact SAIL ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program coordinator Alli Gabbert (or Bridget Kratz later this summer) at 747-6859.

• Summer 2014 schedule of SAIL outdoors activities in Sitka