By Jack Durham
Press Editor & Reporter
The stretch of Central Avenue between Anna Sparks Drive and Turner Road at the south end of town has been called a “drag strip” on more than one occasion.
The problem, neighbors say, is that the two southbound lanes merge into one lane before Mill Creek. Some drivers, especially those in the far right-hand lane, race to get ahead of the other cars before the lane comes to an end. This has resulted in a few accidents in the area, with cars going off the road before Mill Creek.
At the Dec. 19 meeting of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee, one neighbor said that some drivers speed up to 60 mph in the area.
“It’s a fatal accident waiting to happen there,” the man said.
County Public Works Deputy Director Chris Whitworth said that the speeding was an “enforcement issue” that needed to be dealt with by law enforcement.
But then McKMAC member Pat Barsanti suggested a solution – why not require cars in the right-hand lane to turn into the Mill Creek Marketplace, and have the other lane for cars continuing up the hill? This would force drivers to pick a lane further north up Central Avenue, rather than racing toward Mill Creek.
Whitworth said that the idea should be studied. “We could look at that,” he said.
Meanwhile, this summer the county plans to widen Central Avenue from Bartow Road to the driveway just uphill from Mill Creek. The county is basically installing shoulders on each side of the road for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Dow’s Prairie Road
The county had attempted to get grant funding to build sidewalks on Dow’s Prairie Road so children could get to school safely.
However, a survey of Dow’s Prairie students showed that most of them are driven there by parents. This made the grant application for Safe Routes to School funding less competitive for this particular project.
As an alternative to doing nothing, Public Works is creating a wider shoulder on the west side of Dow’s Prairie Road. The area is being trimmed and graded. The next step is to put down asphalt grindings.
Little Pond median project
Whitworth also showed the McKMAC a computer rendering of the median island that will be built on Murray Road at Little Pond Street next summer. There will be a raised median in the center of the road, with bulb-outs on either side of Murray Road. This will provide a safer place for students to cross. The project is estimated to cost $100,000.
Roundabout at Murray?
Although there’s no time-line for the project, Public Works has suggested that a four-way traffic stoplight might be needed at the intersection of Central Avenue and Murray Road due to increased traffic.
In last week’s edition of the McKinleyville Press, resident Scott Baker suggested in a letter to the editor that a roundabout be considered for the intersection. The idea was briefly discussed by the McKMAC.
“It’s one of the tools in the box,” Whitworth said about roundabouts.
He noted that if a roundabout was built at the intersection, traffic on both Murray and Central would need to be narrowed to a single lane in each direction before reaching the roundabout.
Whitworth said that contrary to public opinion, roundabouts work quite well. They also reduce accident rates.
As for the idea of a stoplight at the intersection, McKMAC members said they thought it might actually slow traffic at a location that seems to work well with the existing stop signs.
“It almost seems as if a light would back up traffic,” said McKMAC member Kevin Dreyer.
The McKMAC can be reached at email@example.com.