Bogard Road traffic brings calls for slower speed limits
Traffic in the Mat-Su Borough is growing rapidly along with its population, and residents near one congested corridor are asking the state to slow it down.
For Mat-Su commuters Bogard Road is a busy artery, with a steady stream of cars by 7:30 a.m.
“It will get to the point if I come out of my subdivision too late, I can’t get out on the road for 10 to 15 minutes,” said Butch Shapiro, president of the North Lakes Community Council.
Shapiro said the intersection of Bogard and North Engstrom roads is especially hazardous, with a current 50 mph speed limit and high traffic volume.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities reported the average number of cars that drive Bogard Road daily increased from 7,372 in 2011 to 9,333 in 2017.
“I pass by here every day and I’ve seen several close calls, several accidents here. It’s just another matter of time before we have another fatality,” Shapiro said.
During one recent commute, several cars on North Engstrom took advantage of small openings in the traffic to jet out on to the road, causing drivers along Bogard to slam on their brakes.
Shapiro's community council supports reducing the speed in the section by Engstrom from 50 mph down to 35, but they’ve run into red tape with DOTPF.
“It’s a cumbersome process to try to get your speeds reduced. There’s a study, it’s a time-consuming process. This is kind of a no-brainer on this,” he said.
DOTPF spokesperson Shannon McCarthy said the agency has plans to control the speed in that area, but in a different way. The high number of crashes triggered a Highway Safety Improvement Program project.
McCarthy said DOTPF will use federal funding to install a round-about, like other sections of Bogard including its intersections with Trunk and Seldon roads.
“It slows traffic down to the point if there is a crash, it’s not serious or a fatality,” McCarthy said.
The department gets speed reduction requests for areas all the time, McCarthy said. But drivers rely on visual cues, like roundabouts, to slow their speed and just changing the sign might not be enough.
“In fact what you’ll end up doing is some people go slower, but a majority end up going faster," McCarthy said. "We don’t want to see that conflict with speeds because that is a risky situation.”
State officials do take local organizations' concerns into account, McCarthy said, along with other factors such as the crash history of an area and nearby development like neighborhoods and schools.
“We do consider speed reduction requests. We typically ask folks who are interested in them to to work with their community council or city or borough because we want these requests to be really widely supported,” McCarthy said.
She added that lowering the speed in the area isn’t effective without awareness campaigns and law enforcement to put some teeth behind the speed limit.
The $8 million roundabout project is slated for construction in 2023, pending the availability of funding.
Shapiro said he hopes DOTPF can do something before then.
“I’ve listened to what folks have to say and they’re really concerned about this,” Shapiro said.
The North Lakes Community Council is working to fund several mobile, electronic speed signs to alert drivers to how fast they’re going. Shapiro said that could be a temporary fix since the roundabout is still about four years out.
Managing traffic takes time and money, and McCarthy asks drivers to be cautious until DOTPF can get the congestion resolved.
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