As the City of Homer has grown over the years, so have its problems with traffic, especially in the summertime when thousands of visitors descend on Kachemak Bay. The Alaska Department of Transportation has taken notice of the problem and now stands ready to fix what it calls Homer’s worst intersection – Main Street and the Sterling Highway.
At a committee meeting Monday afternoon, the Homer City Council sat down to look at the state’s latest plans for Main Street.
Homer City Manager Walt Wrede says DOT has funding in place to work on two of Homer’s most troublesome intersections. He says the state has $2.8 million to improve the intersection of Main Street and the Sterling Highway and a smaller amount of money to work on Main Steet and Pioneer Avenue.
For years, the city council has debated that question for the intersection of Main Street and the highway – a traffic signal, which would be the less expensive option? Or a roundabout, the option that’s preferred by DOT but may prove to be controversial in the community?
Wrede says DOT officials are studying projects now and hope to have construction completed in 2015. He says the state definitely would prefer to build a roundabout at Main Street and the highway.
"But they're sceptical that the money will be enough ... because of the property that would be affected and the grade there," he said.
Wrede says that when the project moves into the design phase, DOT will decide if there is enough money for a roundabout and if there is not, they’ll fall back to designing a four-way traffic signal with additional turn lanes on both roads.
Meanwhile, the city is holding onto a $2 million legislative grant that could be used to assist with cost of an intersection or to make improvements along Main Street, such as installing sidewalks or moving the power lines underground.
Council member David Lewis wonders about the amount of private property that would have to be taken to make room for a large roundabout.
"Would we get stuck buying the whole lot?" Lewis asked. "And if they decide to fight us on it, will it just extend the whole thing and ... (then) we'll be caught in more court cases?"
Wrede says the city has not spoken to affected property owners recently about the potential road project. He reminded council members that both Main Street and the Sterling Highway are the responsibility of the State of Alaska.
Homer Mayor Beth Wythe said another consideration is what the installation of a roundabout at Main Street and the highway might do to the walkability of the area.
The Homer City Council has still not made a decision on what it would like to see happen at the intersection of Main Street and the Sterling Highway – a roundabout or a traffic light or some other idea – but the clock is ticking on a decision. The state grant is set to expire June 30th.