Council discusses Old Town traffic

Homer City Manager Walt Wrede and the Homer City Council on Tuesday night discussed ways to calm traffic and reduce speeding in the historic Old Town neighborhood. With complaints of people speeding on Main Street, Ohlson Lane, Bunnell Avenue and Beluga Place — the access to Bishop’s Beach — Old Town residents and businesses met on May 20 with city officials to discuss ways to slow down traffic.

In public testimony, Bunnell Avenue resident William Ostwald said cars and walkers are having a hard time getting along. He cited several Homer News police blotter items as evidence of the problem. In one incident, citizens reported a driver spraying gravel on the beach and disregarding pedestrians. In another incident, a private citizen detained a speeding driver.

“When we have private citizens doing that, we know we have a real problem,” Ostwald said. “I’ve seen people diving into the ditches. It’s not a question of somebody getting hit down there. It’s a question of when.”

The city has made several improvements to Old Town streets, including lowering the speed limit to 15 mph and adding a pedestrian lane on East Bunnell Avenue. 

In his city manager’s report, Wrede discussed a meeting he had with Old Town representatives and a letter received from Brianna M. Allen, Old Town Development Coordinator with Bunnell Street Arts Center. Allen suggested these additional improvements:

• Putting speed bumps on Main Street, Ohlson Lane, East Bunnell Avenue and Beluga Place; and

• Installing rumble strips and orange wands marking the edge of the pedestrian land on East Bunnell Avenue.

Allen wrote that she’d like the city to consider Old Town as a test site for traffic calming options.

“After all, Bunnell to Beluga is not a road that dead ends at Bishop’s Beach,” she wrote. “It is the entrance to an historic beach ‘highway’ and drivers are just getting revved up as they approach it.”

There is access to Bishop’s Beach at the end of Beluga Place, and many drivers continue on to the beach. The Beach Policy Task Force recommended years ago limiting the east end of Bishop’s Beach to pedestrians, but drivers ignore signs suggesting cars go right, or west, and not left, or east.

Wrede said the city will come up with cost estimates for some of the Old Town ideas. The Homer Advisory Planning Commission is coming up with criteria for traffic calming, but Old Town representatives have said they can’t wait for that process.

“They’re feeling a real need to do something this summer,” Wrede said.

Wrede said the city will have Old Town streets restriped this summer.

In celebration of Old Town community art and other efforts, Bunnell Street Arts Center holds “Bouillabaisse Dinner in the Street” from 4-8 p.m. Sunday on West Bunnell Avenue. The outdoor event features a sit-down dinner provided by Maura’s Café, Two Sisters Bakery, AJ’s OldTown Steakhouse, Monkey Fist Charcuterie, Mermaid Café and Fat Olives. There also is a silent auction. Tickets are $30 a person or $55 a pair, on sale at Bunnell Street Arts Center of the Homer Bookstore.

Council member Beau Burgess made a half-joking suggestion for slowing traffic in Old Town. He cited a Danish program that had scantily clothed people holding signs urging drivers to slow down. Burgess said the Danish approach was “one of the most highly effective traffic control campaigns ever.”

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

 

“Bouillabaisse Dinner in the Street” 

What: Sit-down dinner and celebration of community art and other efforts

When: 4-8 p.m. Sunday 

Where: on West Bunnell Avenue

Cost: $30 a person or $55 a pair, on sale at Bunnell Street Arts Center or the Homer Bookstore

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