Monday, July 25, 2011

Trapper Creek, Alaska/Reduction of Speed Zone to 45 MPH

Anybody opposed, please make your opposition known to Trapper Creek Community Council, in writing, by August 18, 2011.

Oppositions can be submitted to any Community Council member, emailed to trappercreek2010@gmail, mailed to PO Box 13021, or at Council meetings. Council meetings are held at 7:30 pm, the third Thursday each month, at the Trapper Creek Community Park building.

Mark A. Luiken
Alaska DOT/PF
Office of Commissioner
PO Box 112500
Juneau AK 99811-2500

RE: Trapper Creek, Alaska/Reduction of Speed Zone to 45 MPH

Commissioner Luiken,

The Trapper Creek Community Council, with this letter, formally requests that the State of Alaska, Department of Transportation reduce the posted speed limit on the George Parks Highway through Trapper Creek from 55 to 45 miles per hour. Reducing the speed limit is long overdue and absolutely mandatory for multiple reasons.
The center of Trapper Creek is located along a section of the George Parks Highway between milepost 114.4 and 115.7. Along this small stretch of highway are two intersecting state roads, Petersville and E. Susitna; two Mat-Su Borough roads, Devonshire and TC Park; fifteen driveways for seven residential properties and ten businesses; a church, library, ambulance barn, community park and cemetery, a transfer station and a post office. There are no pedestrian walkways, crosswalks, multiple lanes or turning lanes.

Relevant factors for DOT to consider are:

- Pedestrian Safety:
The high population density within a mile radius of the Petersville Road intersection promotes pedestrian traffic, including residents walking or biking to and from the post office on a daily basis and children walking to either the library or community park. In the absence of bike paths, all pedestrian travel occurs in the paved strip just outside the white lines along the highway within feet of passing vehicles.

- Local Vehicular Traffic:
In Trapper Creek there is a significant amount of local resident traffic, probably more so than in Cantwell, Sunshine, or Willow. It is virtually impossible to accelerate to 55 mph from any arterial road, driveway, or business entrance while going from, for instance, the library to the post office or from the park to the transfer station. This creates a constant and alarming danger.
As your literature states, “The safest traffic condition is when everybody drives at the same speed.” Our safety concern is that through traffic traveling at the speed limit of 55 mph or higher is not aware that there is local traffic routinely traveling ten to fifteen mph slower through Trapper Creek. The locals are defensively forced to over- accelerate, pull over, or use turning signals quite a distance from their exit to prevent being rear-ended. Near collisions are not recorded in statistics.

- Physical Layout of Trapper Creek
Except for two businesses which are quite noticeable along highway frontage, all other businesses, all residences, the post office, library, park and the church are set back enough that they are not readily apparent to passing traffic. There are also major curves in the Parks Highway on either border of Trapper Creek that obscure our business strip from approaching traffic. This poses a safety hazard, as fast moving traffic, particularly from the south, is well within the confines of Trapper Creek before danger becomes apparent.

Although counters might establish the need for turning lanes or verify heavy traffic on arterial roads, they would do little to promote safety for pedestrian and local vehicular traffic along the Parks Highway corridor within Trapper Creek.
With increased traffic during the summer tourist season, it is critical for DOT to address the safety and welfare of our citizens by reducing the speed zone through Trapper Creek from 55 mph to 45 mph. The Trapper Creek Community Council asks the Alaska Department of Transportation for prompt resolution.


Shawn Y. Stankowitz.
Chairman, Trapper Creek Community Council

On May 12, 2011, Engineer Scott Thomas, DOT/PF, responded to a request from the Trapper Creek Community Council for a speed limit review in Trapper Creek. Mr. Thomas’ letter with attachments was very helpful in our understanding of this process. This email is attached.

Scott Thomas
4111 Aviation Ave.
Anchorage AK 99519

Randy Vanderwood
Central Region Chief of Maintenance and Operations
4111 Aviation Ave.
Anchorage AK 99519

Brad Sworts
Mat-Su Borough
Transportation Division Manager
350 E. Dahlia
Palmer AK 99645

Senator Charlie Huggins
600 E. Railroad Ave.
Wasilla AK 99654

Representative Mark Neuman
600 E. Railroad Ave.
Wasilla AK 99654

Assemblyman Vern Halter
PO Box 389
Willow AK 99688


Forwarded Message Attachment--
Date: Thu, 12 May 2011 17:14:48 -0800
Subject: Trapper Creek/Petersville JCT 45 MPH Speed Zone Request

Mrs. Glenka,

I have logged your community request into our speed limit review list. We have about 50 requests and are able to work on only about two per year given our small staff and other duties.
However, I will request counters be placed to gather field data on traffic near this junction, this summer.
I can assure you crashes are not the requirement to decide a speed zone. There are no strong patterns here. Fatal head on crashes have occurred north and south of the junction outside of developed areas in the recent past. We have addressed head on collisions in the area south to the Big Susitna River using centerline rumble strips. Within the developed area, we don’t see concentrated crashes, but there was a serious angle crash in 2006. Speed zones are determined primarily based on adjacent land use and access density, the density of the turning traffic, and how this density is causing the majority of motorists to drive today. We don’t want a speed limit that is so low no one complies, or so high there is conflict.

Attached are applicable laws and results in other communities of speeds observed against speed limits.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The key is to have a zone that is believable by the motorist in order to be respected. To be believable, they need to see development and turning traffic amongst other things. The straightaway to the south of MP 114.5 is a concern, as I don’t see a believable reason to slow to 45 MPH.
If the problem is extreme speeders running at 70 MPH plus in a 55 MPH zone, then a lower speed zone will not likely affect those drivers. For them enforcement is key. We will find out the mix of speeds and compare against all the other features such as driveway density as listed in state laws. I would hope to have more information by fall.

Scott Thomas
DOT/PF Traffic Engineer