PALMER — Palmer City Hall is working to make the city of Palmer safer, with a set of six crosswalk signs that have placed in the middle of the roadway around three crosswalks.
The first set of signs was set up earlier this summer between Vagabond Blues and Just Sew on South Alaska Street.
“We just decided we were going to try something a little different around uncontrolled crosswalks,” said Palmer City Manager Nathan Wallace.
After the city received a favorable response from the first set of signs, Wallace added crosswalks around the schools in Palmer next. Palmer Junior Middle School got the next set of crosswalk signs on South Chugach Street. Wallace said that Chugach Street has a speed perception problem, changing from a 45 miles per hour speed limit down to 25, with a 20 mph school zone in between.
“It’s just one more effort to identify crosswalks. Sort of driver awareness that it’s a walkable community, and to some extent it’s also a driver’s community for pedestrians,” said Wallace.
Wallace additionally said that the crosswalk signs are to encourage people to use the crosswalks as opposed to jaywalking. Sherrod Elementary Principal Lorri Cook has one of her employees serve as a crosswalk guard for 30 minutes before and after school. Cook said that her crossing guard routinely reported vehicles speeding past the crosswalks in recent years.
“It’s been a concern that we’ve voiced for a while that the speeds and obeying traffic laws have been a concern,” said Cook.
Cook said that around 30 of her students walk or bike to school. Cook appreciates the crosswalk signs that have slowed motorists passing by the elementary schools in Palmer.
The Palmer Police Department also works to keep the community safe, and was part of the effort to crack down drunk driving during on of the Valley’s busiest weekends of the summer. The Labor Day Weekend brings some of the highest influx of visitors into the Mat-Su Valley of any weekend out of the year. Whether recreating in the Valley during the long holiday weekend or visiting the Alaska State Fair, the Valley grows considerably in population during the end of August and beginning of September.
The high visibility Driving Under the Influence programs are offered by the state, and the city of Palmer receives additional grant funding to pay overtime wages for Palmer Police Department officers focused on DUI patrol.
“During that time, the DUI tends to be high and the intent is to hopefully, first of all prevent, and then if we can’t do that enforce,” said Palmer Police Chief Lance Ketterling.
Ketterling said that PPD keeps an officer patrolling the gate of the fair from the early evening late on into the next morning. During the high visibility DUI enforcement, PPD officers’ patrols resulted in 16 DUI charges during 2019. The patrol period encompasses the entire two weeks of the increased traffic in the Valley. During 2018, PPD officers were able to make nine charges due to the high visibility enforcement.