Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 9:00 PM on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Main Street needs makeover, signal

Big city residents might laugh at what Homer residents think of as traffic problems, but just because we don't come to a complete standstill for hours on end at certain times of the day doesn't mean there's not plenty of room for improvement.

Most of the problems are where Homer streets intersect with the Sterling Highway. Since the problems at Lake Street and Sterling Highway intersection were eliminated with the addition of a traffic signal a few years ago, the most notorious intersection is Main Street and the Sterling Highway.

A 2005 study said that by 2011 the intersection would be bad enough in terms of traffic volume and safety to merit an upgrade. Here it is 2011 and the intersection is getting some much deserved attention by city and state officials.

One of the questions now being considered is what's the best fix: a roundabout or a traffic light? That question stirred heated debate a few years ago at the Lake Street intersection.

There are pros and cons to both fixes, but for safety's sake, our vote is for what can be accomplished in the quickest amount of time at the least expense — a fix before there's a severe crash. That's most likely a traffic signal, at least for now. And a signal before summer's crush of traffic would be ideal.

Maybe a traffic signal is an interim solution until Homer takes a more long-range approach to its transportation issues, instead of debating what to do at every intersection when money becomes available.

Its intersection with the Sterling Highway is just one of Main Street's many problems. The state of the road, in general, is atrocious. It definitely is due a makeover like Bartlett Street received not long ago, and that makeover definitely should include sidewalks. Is there a Main Street anywhere else in the United States that doesn't come with sidewalks? It's a miracle a pedestrian hasn't been killed somewhere along the road. Talk about an accident waiting to happen. Unfortunately, many pedestrians make their situation worse by not following the rules of the road — didn't someone teach them they need to walk facing traffic and to wear some bright clothing or reflective tape when walking, especially in the dark of winter?

Main Street's dual ownership also doesn't help matters. The state owns that part of Main Street south of Pioneer Avenue; the city owns north of Pioneer Avenue. Both sections of Main Street need to be brought up to the same standard. The northern part of Main Street provides one access to South Peninsula Hospital, via West Bayview Avenue. It's a poor route to the hospital, at best — at least with the current state of Main Street.

While there are many issues to be addressed, here's one solution: Get a signal in at the intersection and start working on how to bring all of Main Street up to Bartlett Street standards.

It's time to celebrate winter

We might groan and grouse about the dark and cold of winter, but we know how to celebrate it, too. Throughout this week's Homer News are reminders of this weekend's winter carnival. Look for us in Saturday's parade.