The Ketchikan City Council heard a presentation Thursday about the Alaska Department of Transportation’s plans to update Front, Mill and Stedman streets.
Christopher Goins, DOT design contract manager, told the Council that engineers considered traffic and pedestrian needs when designing the proposed changes. Those changes include wider sidewalks and a narrower road. The proposal would remove the center southbound lane for much of the route.
Council members disagreed with that choice.
One concern is that a proposed dedicated left-turn lane planned for the Front-Mission street intersection would encourage more drivers to turn onto that pedestrian-heavy street, especially with the planned removal of a left-turn onto Main Street from Mill.
Council Member Dave Kiffer, used a slide of the streets as a visual reference as he pointed out: “If we take away Main Street, then it increases the Mission Street issues. And as someone who tries to go through there a half dozen or more times a day in the summer – even with the crossing guards, they let people across, which allows traffic to go, except that (they) all wander right over here and stand right here, and you still can’t turn. So that’s why I think increasing the emphasis on Mission Street is a mistake.”
Mission Street is full of shops and is where Ketchikan’s Welcome Arch sign is located. Many tourists stand in the middle of that street to get a photo under the sign with Deer Mountain in the background. That causes traffic problems.
Some have proposed closing that short block of Mission Street to vehicle traffic during the summer. Goins said DOT wasn’t aware of that consideration when making these plans. He added that DOT is open to maintaining three lanes through Front and Mill streets.
Also Thursday, the Council considered a request from OceansAlaska for relief from electric charges, totaling about $16,500. The Council suggested that the organization apply for a community agency grant.
OceansAlaska board member Bill Rotecki said his board didn’t want to take grant money from other local nonprofits, which is why they didn’t go that route.
But, Mayor Lew Williams III said there’s more money in the community grant fund this year, so it shouldn’t affect other nonprofits. The deadline to apply has passed, but the Council agreed to give OceansAlaska more time to submit an application.
The Council also heard from local teacher and flag enthusiast Peter Stanton, who suggested the city redesign and then promote its flag. He said a well-designed flag could be used on mugs, T-shirts and other merchandise to market Ketchikan. Whereas, “a poorly designed flag is little more than a wasted opportunity.”
At the end of the meeting, the Council went into executive session to talk about potential litigation related to the cruise ship Celebrity Infinity’s June 3 collision with Berth 3.
Following that discussion, the Council unanimously approved a motion accepting a settlement agreement covering the city’s losses totaling $992,500.