City hopes to track speeds on Ben Walters Lane

The city of Homer is eyeing a way to get a solid answer on whether there’s a speeding problem on a local city street.

Sponsored by council member Rachel Lord, an ordinance introduced at the council’s June 25 meeting aims to gather data in reference to numerous ongoing citizen reports of speeding on Ben Walters Lane. Residents have testified that drivers use the road as an alternative to Lake Street, and claim they travel at speeds well past the legal 25 miles per hour.

Complaints about Ben Walters Lane are a recurring theme in the police blotter received by the Homer News.

The ordinance would appropriate $3,500 from the Police Reserve fund to buy a traffic monitoring device, which would be placed on a sign post somewhere along Ben Walters Lane. The device would be inconspicuous and would log the speed of passing vehicles.

In essence, the ordinance would give the city a way to have solid evidence of speeding to help make decisions on whether extra signage, speed humps, or other traffic controllers are actually necessary.

“There’s utmost flexibility to the (police) department to use this tool as they see fit,” Lord said during the committee of the whole meeting on June 25. “I think it will be money well spent, and again, it will allow us to better justify … I don’t like making decisions based on anecdote. Anecdotally, I believe that there is a serious speeding problem on Ben Walters, and I think that the solution to most problems is multi-pronged and it includes enforcement, but it also education. It probably includes some capital expense as far as speed humps or what have you. So I think all of those things will likely come into place in that place, but I’m looking forward to having that opportunity to hopefully have that grounded out in data.”

According to the ordinance, “A device to collect data on traffic speeds and provide traffic reports will relieve pressure on busy officers by efficiently gathering data that now can only be gathered by a police officer.”

The speed monitoring device would not have the ability to identify the actual vehicles or driver, just their speeds. It would be used for “data purposes only,” according to the ordinance.

“Data collected by this device would be a useful tool for the Homer Police Department to confirm citizen complaints of excessive speed and justify the costs of additional signage, enforcement, and traffic calming measures,” the text reads.

The device would also be mobile. In response to questions from other council members, Lord noted that it would be possible to move the device around to monitor other areas with potential traffic problems after sufficient data has been collected on Ben Walters.

Council member Donna Aderhold referenced a time when Anchorage implemented a larger speed monitoring station that took a photo of speeding vehicles and sent traffic tickets to the registered owners. She said it did not go over well in the community.

“I, at this stage of the game, am in support of something small and low key that is collecting general data to give us an assessment of what’s going on,” she said.

The speeding device ordinance will be up for public hearing and a vote at the next council meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. Monday, July 23 at Homer City Hall.

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