A slow traffic solution?

  • Saturday, July 16, 2016 1:06pm
  • Opinion

We’ve all been there at one time or another — stuck behind a vehicle going slow enough to hold us up, but just fast enough to make passing safely a difficult proposition.

And at some point, many of us have been driving one of those slow-moving vehicles — maybe we’ve hitched up a trailer, hit the road in the RV, or maybe we’re just not as comfortable driving the narrow, winding roads as fast as other drivers might like — and been frustrated that on many stretches of the Kenai Peninsula’s Highways, there aren’t many options for letting faster-moving vehicles riding our bumper get past.

Last week, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities launched a pilot study to see if differential speed limits could help in easing some of those traffic issues. The test area is on the Seward Highway, between the Hope Highway junction and the top of Turnagain Pass. In areas where there are passing lanes, the speed limit in the right lane is 55 mph, and the speed limit in the left lane is 65 mph.

The theory is a good one, with slower moving vehicles keeping to the right lane and limiting their speed, giving faster moving vehicles a better opportunity to safely pass.

Really, the theory should already be standard practice — signs in passing zones already indicate that slower traffic should use the right lane, and that drivers should keep right except to pas. And common courtesy would dictate that if a driver is trying to pass, the polite thing to do would be to slow down a little where it is safe to do so to let them get around.

The differential speed limit study is an attempt to enforce common sense and courtesy by regulation as it often seems to be lacking on the roads these days.

Highway safety continues to be a serious issue on the Kenai Peninsula. As we’ve said in this space before, contributing factors in highway safety include road conditions and driver behavior. Many stretches of peninsula highways haven’t changed significantly in decades, which is a part of the issue. Especially during the summer, peninsula roads see a much higher volume of traffic than they did even 20 years ago, and in many places, barely have a shoulder to speak of — nevermind passing lanes.

Highway improvement projects continue, for example, slow vehicle turnouts were added along the Sterling Highway between Kasilof and Homer, and slowly but surely, drivers are learning how to use them. But peninsula roads still require a different attitude than driving in other places — most of all, patience.

We hope that the differential speed limits will help drivers get where they’re going a little quicker, and ease some of the traffic frustrations.

But we also hope that driver will acknowledge the Seward and Sterling highways should not be confused with an interstate, and encourage all drivers — fast and slow — to remember that a little courtesy can go a long way.

More in Opinion

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s first act as governor was unconstitutional

That’s according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.

Jackson Blackwell (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Carbon dividends are the bipartisan climate solution

By levying a gradually increasing price on carbon, U.S. emissions will be slashed by 50% in 15 years.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Dunleavy: Facts Matter

Political opportunists care more about spreading political untruths than accepting the facts.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)
Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

teaser
Opinion: LGBTQ+ Alaskans deserve respect and dignity

Like every state that lacks equality, we need federal protection.