AP NEWS

Ketchikan crossing guards see more activity

July 6, 2019
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In this photo taken June 26, 2019, Emma Campbell, a Ketchikan Ports and Harbors crossing guard, monitors pedestrian and tour bus traffic on at Berth 1 and 2 in Ketchikan, Alaska. During the tourist season, a team of crossing guards from the City of Ketchikan takes over directing pedestrians downtown, and this season, the area has seen increased activity and traffic due to an ongoing construction project. (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News via AP)

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — Each visitor season, a team of crossing guards from the City of Ketchikan takes over directing pedestrians downtown - this season, that area has seen more activity and traffic with the ongoing construction project.

The city’s crossing guards - there are as many as 30 working each day - typically work a weekly schedule of four 10-hour days, although this year there is more overtime. Their work begins in the morning when the first cruise ship arrives and ends mid-afternoon.

City crossing guards are not connected to the ongoing construction project, coordinated by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. DOT expects the project to be complete by the end of August.

The actual construction work - which is being done to complete the Front, Mill and Stedman streets project - begins at 3 p.m. Saturday through Thursday. At this time, the flaggers associated with the project take over directing traffic and pedestrians. The work can go as late as 1 a.m., or sometimes as late as 6 a.m.

Crossing guards will continue to be posted around the downtown area through the tourist season at the intersections of Mission and Front streets, Mill and Main streets, Front and Grant streets and the tunnel.

Additionally, crossing guards are posted at the entrance to the Front Street extension to discourage crossing into the roadway. Crossing guards at this location do not hold stop signs or direct traffic, as their primary concern is keeping pedestrians from crossing the road in dangerous places.

The City Council has been discussing additional city crossing guards at the intersection of Mission and Main street, and at Berth 4.

David Dixon oversees the city crossing guard team as the sole facility security officer, a job he has done for three summers in Ketchikan. Dixon is responsible for coordinating security efforts with the cruise ships.

Dixon said that construction has not changed the level of crossing guards’ presence downtown from past summers, except for the addition of a guard stationed on Front Street, at the opening of the tunnel.

As heavy constructions has taken over much of downtown Ketchikan, the city’s crossing guards are witnessing frustration from both locals and visitors as they continue to direct pedestrians and vehicles this summer.

Dixon noted that much of Ketchikan’s frustration with the extended project comes from slow-moving buses and vehicles.

“The trip through the downtown this year is noticeably slower,” he continued. “We hear a lot of people venting and voicing their frustration with the whole situation. But we can’t make the concrete get poured any faster.”

“There have been a lot of little complications, one or two big ones, with vehicles actually damaged because the bumps are so bad,” Dixon said, referencing an incident where a bus’ front wheel came off in traffic this month. “But, mainly, it’s just trying to deal with the frustration. And that’s mostly for the people that live here.”

Newcomer Emma Campbell, 17, said that being a crossing guard “really opens your eyes” to one’s own behavior while navigating downtown in a vehicle or on foot.

Campbell, who will be a senior at Ketchikan High School this fall, applied for the job because she wanted to work outdoors, and has been working about one month.

“I was not prepared enough to stand,” Campbell joked, although she has noticed that the rain doesn’t bother her as much as she thought it would.

To Campbell, who does not have experience from past seasons to recall, the construction “has been a little difficult to work around.”

Port and Harbors has nicknames for each location and position. The intersection of Mill and Main streets is referred to as “doubles,” while the Front and Mill street curve near where Dwyer’s Crab and Fish Restaurant is situated is simply known as “fish.”

Campbell said that the busiest locations are “doubles” and on the docks, across from Diamonds International. She often has to tell people not to jump the ropes lining the sidewalks to get across the street, and to look up from their mobile devices when crossing into construction zones.

″(Visitors to Ketchikan) are not as conscious when they are here,” Campbell said.

She noticed that tourists often will follow blindly with a crowd. She hypothesized that many might come from urban areas where automatic traffic lights and signals are common, which is why some move as part of a large crowd instead of waiting for the direction of a crossing guard. Their phones are also a big distraction, Campbell said.

For locals who know that the crossing guards are situated around town, impatient drivers are a constant issue. Campbell said that only a “select few” local drivers cause issues with their impatient driving, but “being vigilant and mindful” while driving always helps.

Cole Greenup, 21, has returned to working with Port and Harbors for his second season. He is now a “street lead,” or a person who is responsible for making sure crossing guards have everything they need to do their jobs. He describes his job as that of a “right-hand man.”

Greenup said that often, being a crossing guard and “street lead” is not unlike being a Walmart greeter - visitors are constantly asking questions about the town and its history. He estimates that the “easiest” location to watch over is at Berth 1, with the busiest being Mission Street.

Even so, Greenup said that people this season often treat crossing guards as if they “don’t belong” in Ketchikan’s downtown - even though their presence in the area is not a new addition to summers in the First City.

“Nothing seemed new,” Greenup said of starting his second season - his first with this construction added to the downtown mix.

As a “street lead,” Greenup estimates that the ratio of people in Ketchikan who are wary or resentful of crossing guards to those who are appreciative is about “70 to 30.”

Much like Campbell and Dixon, Greenup believes that patience will make the process of completing the downtown construction easier for locals, visitors and the crews involved with directing traffic.

He said that “perspective of time” is something important to keep in mind when stalled at a crosswalk with a crossing guard. Both Dixon and Greenup commented that Ketchikan residents have made complaints that crossing guards have kept them waiting for up to five minutes.

Dixon said that the time pedestrians spend waiting to cross the road can vary from “less than a minute to whatever time is necessary to allow the backed-up traffic to move through the downtown.” Wait times are made longer the speed bumps and holes in the road that are greatly slowing the speed of vehicles.

Dixon elaborated that allowing both (traffic and pedestrians) “to co-exist safely and efficiently . it is far easier to say than it is to do.”

“We actually care about the traffic flow,” Greenup said, explaining that the guards know how to keep a good balance between pedestrians who need to cross and locals who need to utilize the roadways.

“Really, the hardest part of this job is trying to gauge the flow of traffic,” Dixon elaborated.

While many Ketchikan residents and visitors might believe that crossing guards and port security officials shout at people often, Greenup and Campbell agree it is done in situations where the guard believes someone’s safety is in question.

Greenup recalls an incident with a visiting cruise ship passenger who was not paying attention and found herself in front of a bus in the road.

Many times, crossing guards have to use loud, clear voices to grab people’s attention. Greenup stated that sometimes, yelling at people makes him uncomfortable, even though he has judged it to be a matter of the individual’s safety.

Campbell and Greenup believe that a good crossing guard is someone who is organized, assertive and confident.

Dixon said that a good crossing guard is the one “who can pick out, out of a group of 12 or so, the one who’s going to cross (where they shouldn’t).”

Crossing guards and other personnel from The City of Ketchikan Port and Harbors Department are seen as a common sign of the visitor season in Ketchikan, but as the construction project continues to slow the rhythm of downtown traffic, the crossing guards are recognizing the frustration of the town.

Dixon added that it’s “natural” for Ketchikan residents to be frustrated at the situation downtown.

“They (Ketchikan residents) want to tell it (their frustration) to somebody who they think can do something about it,” Dixon said. “If there was a great alternate route, everyone would be using it.”

Each visitor season, a team of crossing guards from the City of Ketchikan takes over directing pedestrians downtown - this season, that area has seen more activity and traffic with the ongoing construction project.

The city’s crossing guards - there are as many as 30 working each day - typically work a weekly schedule of four 10-hour days, although this year there is more overtime. Their work begins in the morning when the first cruise ship arrives and ends mid-afternoon.

City crossing guards are not connected to the ongoing construction project, coordinated by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. DOT expects the project to be complete by the end of August.

The actual construction work - which is being done to complete the Front, Mill and Stedman streets project - begins at 3 p.m. Saturday through Thursday. At this time, the flaggers associated with the project take over directing traffic and pedestrians. The work can go as late as 1 a.m., or sometimes as late as 6 a.m.

Crossing guards will continue to be posted around the downtown area through the tourist season at the intersections of Mission and Front streets, Mill and Main streets, Front and Grant streets and the tunnel.

Additionally, crossing guards are posted at the entrance to the Front Street extension to discourage crossing into the roadway. Crossing guards at this location do not hold stop signs or direct traffic, as their primary concern is keeping pedestrians from crossing the road in dangerous places.

The City Council has been discussing additional city crossing guards at the intersection of Mission and Main street, and at Berth 4.

David Dixon oversees the city crossing guard team as the sole facility security officer, a job he has done for three summers in Ketchikan. Dixon is responsible for coordinating security efforts with the cruise ships.

Dixon said that construction has not changed the level of crossing guards’ presence downtown from past summers, except for the addition of a guard stationed on Front Street, at the opening of the tunnel.

As heavy constructions has taken over much of downtown Ketchikan, the city’s crossing guards are witnessing frustration from both locals and visitors as they continue to direct pedestrians and vehicles this summer.

Dixon noted that much of Ketchikan’s frustration with the extended project comes from slow-moving buses and vehicles.

“The trip through the downtown this year is noticeably slower,” he continued. “We hear a lot of people venting and voicing their frustration with the whole situation. But we can’t make the concrete get poured any faster.”

“There have been a lot of little complications, one or two big ones, with vehicles actually damaged because the bumps are so bad,” Dixon said, referencing an incident where a bus’ front wheel came off in traffic this month. “But, mainly, it’s just trying to deal with the frustration. And that’s mostly for the people that live here.”

Newcomer Emma Campbell, 17, said that being a crossing guard “really opens your eyes” to one’s own behavior while navigating downtown in a vehicle or on foot.

Campbell, who will be a senior at Ketchikan High School this fall, applied for the job because she wanted to work outdoors, and has been working about one month.

“I was not prepared enough to stand,” Campbell joked, although she has noticed that the rain doesn’t bother her as much as she thought it would.

To Campbell, who does not have experience from past seasons to recall, the construction “has been a little difficult to work around.”

Port and Harbors has nicknames for each location and position. The intersection of Mill and Main streets is referred to as “doubles,” while the Front and Mill street curve near where Dwyer’s Crab and Fish Restaurant is situated is simply known as “fish.”

Campbell said that the busiest locations are “doubles” and on the docks, across from Diamonds International. She often has to tell people not to jump the ropes lining the sidewalks to get across the street, and to look up from their mobile devices when crossing into construction zones.

″(Visitors to Ketchikan) are not as conscious when they are here,” Campbell said.

She noticed that tourists often will follow blindly with a crowd. She hypothesized that many might come from urban areas where automatic traffic lights and signals are common, which is why some move as part of a large crowd instead of waiting for the direction of a crossing guard. Their phones are also a big distraction, Campbell said.

For locals who know that the crossing guards are situated around town, impatient drivers are a constant issue. Campbell said that only a “select few” local drivers cause issues with their impatient driving, but “being vigilant and mindful” while driving always helps.

Cole Greenup, 21, has returned to working with Port and Harbors for his second season. He is now a “street lead,” or a person who is responsible for making sure crossing guards have everything they need to do their jobs. He describes his job as that of a “right-hand man.”

Greenup said that often, being a crossing guard and “street lead” is not unlike being a Walmart greeter - visitors are constantly asking questions about the town and its history. He estimates that the “easiest” location to watch over is at Berth 1, with the busiest being Mission Street.

Even so, Greenup said that people this season often treat crossing guards as if they “don’t belong” in Ketchikan’s downtown - even though their presence in the area is not a new addition to summers in the First City.

“Nothing seemed new,” Greenup said of starting his second season - his first with this construction added to the downtown mix.

As a “street lead,” Greenup estimates that the ratio of people in Ketchikan who are wary or resentful of crossing guards to those who are appreciative is about “70 to 30.”

Much like Campbell and Dixon, Greenup believes that patience will make the process of completing the downtown construction easier for locals, visitors and the crews involved with directing traffic.

He said that “perspective of time” is something important to keep in mind when stalled at a crosswalk with a crossing guard. Both Dixon and Greenup commented that Ketchikan residents have made complaints that crossing guards have kept them waiting for up to five minutes.

Dixon said that the time pedestrians spend waiting to cross the road can vary from “less than a minute to whatever time is necessary to allow the backed-up traffic to move through the downtown.” Wait times are made longer the speed bumps and holes in the road that are greatly slowing the speed of vehicles.

Dixon elaborated that allowing both (traffic and pedestrians) “to co-exist safely and efficiently . it is far easier to say than it is to do.”

“We actually care about the traffic flow,” Greenup said, explaining that the guards know how to keep a good balance between pedestrians who need to cross and locals who need to utilize the roadways.

“Really, the hardest part of this job is trying to gauge the flow of traffic,” Dixon elaborated.

While many Ketchikan residents and visitors might believe that crossing guards and port security officials shout at people often, Greenup and Campbell agree it is done in situations where the guard believes someone’s safety is in question.

Greenup recalls an incident with a visiting cruise ship passenger who was not paying attention and found herself in front of a bus in the road.

Many times, crossing guards have to use loud, clear voices to grab people’s attention. Greenup stated that sometimes, yelling at people makes him uncomfortable, even though he has judged it to be a matter of the individual’s safety.

Campbell and Greenup believe that a good crossing guard is someone who is organized, assertive and confident.

Dixon said that a good crossing guard is the one “who can pick out, out of a group of 12 or so, the one who’s going to cross (where they shouldn’t).”

Crossing guards and other personnel from The City of Ketchikan Port and Harbors Department are seen as a common sign of the visitor season in Ketchikan, but as the construction project continues to slow the rhythm of downtown traffic, the crossing guards are recognizing the frustration of the town.

Dixon added that it’s “natural” for Ketchikan residents to be frustrated at the situation downtown.

“They (Ketchikan residents) want to tell it (their frustration) to somebody who they think can do something about it,” Dixon said. “If there was a great alternate route, everyone would be using it.”

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Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com

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