Assembly asks for safety study on Ohlson Mountain Road

Residents worry about increased traffic, speeding hazards

Residents and recreational visitors of Ohlson Mountain Road may see some adjustment or mitigation measures to traffic and speeding issues, thanks to a request by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

At its Dec. 1 meeting, the assembly approved a resolution on its consent agenda that asks the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to conduct safety and speed limit studies on the road outside of Homer. Assembly member Willy Dunne said he was approached by a resident who lives on that road who expressed concerns they and their neighbors have about ongoing and worsening speeding and traffic on the 4-mile road.

Ohlson Mountain Road is a state-owned road, and Dunne said he realized when he looked into the issue that the borough would have no authority to manage it or change its speed limit. The current speed limit is 35 mph.

According to a letter to the Kachemak Bay Advisory Planning Commission included with the assembly resolution, there are approximately 30 households on the road. It’s also the road that provides access to the Homer Rope Tow and the Lookout Mountain Trails managed by the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club.

“During the winter, nearby cross-country ski trails and a small downhill ski area result in additional traffic and pedestrian use,” Dunne wrote in a memo to the assembly.

He also cited a recent expansion of the gravel extraction site at the end of Ohlson Mountain Road, which the residents say has led to increased commercial truck traffic. A new subdivision is going in at the end of the road, too, which has increased the safety concerns, Dunne said.

Alaska DOT will conduct safety and speed studies of their roads, when it’s requested by a local government body. That’s how Dunne arrived at this assembly resolution, and both the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club and the Kachemak Bay Advisory Planning Commission have also passed resolutions asking for the studies.

Currently, Ohlson Mountain Road has only one speed limit sign for the 4-mile stretch. It’s close to the beginning of the road at its intersection with Skyline Drive, Dunne said. If nothing else, he said he hopes the DOT studies could result in more signs being posted along the road to remind people of the 35 mph speed limit. Other safety measures could include warning signs, he said.

“This resolution would ask the State of Alaska to initiate safety and speed limit studies to investigate methods that would encourage slower and safer driving including additional signage, street stencils, warnings and appropriate speed limits,” Dunne’s memo to the assembly reads.

The DOT process won’t move quickly, though. Dunne said it could take up to a year for the safety and speed studies to be completed.

Though he noted that not every resident of Ohlson Mountain Road is in favor of reducing the speed limit, Dunne said the resolution represents how local governments and residents can team up to solve an issue.

“I think it was kind of a good example of how citizens and government can work together,” he said. “This was a situation where an individual and their neighbors got together and approached the local advisory planning commission.”

The way the assembly could step in and help move the process forward is an example of good governance, Dunne said.

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