Auke Bay project could shut down DeHart's store

The Auke Bay corridor will see a flurry of construction activity in a matter of months, but the status of one key figure in the heart of the area is uncertain — DeHart’s Auke Bay Store.


The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities is in the process of negotiating a buy-out of the store — for demolition. It has two possibilities for rebuilding the Glacier Highway/Back Loop Road intersection. Both feature a roundabout, but the difference is either four “legs” or three.

“Last year when we presented this proposal to the public, we had a three-leg roundabout and it was further up the hill,” state project manager Nathan Leigh told the Docks and Harbor’s board recently. “The three-leg roundabout would create a retaining wall around DeHart’s that’s 12 feet high. Coming down, we need a really flat roundabout so you can slow down and stop. It also presented some other problems but it’s still workable as a three-leg. That was changed to four-leg, but it takes out DeHart’s. We don’t have to raise it (the wall) as high. It gives us an opportunity to put a fourth leg in here for access to the harbor.”

Leigh’s presentation showed the reasoning for the roundabouts is due to higher-than-average crashes, non-standard layout and a vehicle delay time that exceeds DOT standards.

“The department is talking to DeHart’s,” Leigh said. “It’s going to take a process. If they’re not able to come to an agreement, they will go back with a three-leg roundabout. The entrance will be the same to the harbor. The project schedule, if everything goes really smooth, we’ll be able to start the back loop project late this fall.”

There is quite a bit more to what DOT will be doing in the area through 2013. Work on Glacier Highway goes all the way from Fritz Cove Road down to Seaview Avenue, with work on Back Loop Road from the intersection to the entrance of the University of Alaska Southeast. There will be sidewalks added on both sides of the street in the “business district” of Auke Bay through the Back Loop area all the way to the UAS intersection. That said, parking that typically occurs on the sides of the road will no longer be allowed — in fact, it’s already strongly discouraged.

“We are greatly discouraging that,” said Al Clough, DOT’s Southeast project manager. “It’s an encroachment along the right-of-way. Some of the parking that’s been done out there in recent years is incredibly dangerous. That’s an arterial road. They’re not parking on the side of the road, they’re parking in the right-of-way.”

A center turn lane also will be added to the business district.

According to Clough, the entire project will start with the replacement of Brotherhood Bridge.

The construction around Fritz Cove road to Back Loop Road will widen the road, adding shoulders and sidewalks on both sides of the street.

“We want to provide safe bike and pedestrian traffic through this corridor,” Leigh said. “There were some concerns with the proposed alternative we had at that time (a roundabout). We have come up with a proposed alternative at this point here, the Fritz Cove intersection: an indirect left-hand turn lane as they come out of Auke Lake Way.”

The indirect left turn would essentially have vehicles turn right at Auke Lake Way, with a widened area for a large U-turn on Glacier Highway.

“What’s happening now, there is enough traffic on Glacier Highway that during peak hours they have to wait a long time,” Leigh said.

The next focus point of construction is the curve by the Auke Bay lab.

“Everyone that goes around that curve feels it,” Leigh said. “It’s not a comfortable corner to drive around. What we’re proposing to do is to make the radius a little bit larger and then to bank it a little bit more. We’re also going to add a left hand turn lane.”

Aside from the Back Loop portion of the project, the schedule is entirely dependent upon federal funding. Leigh said the earliest they expect to be able to start on those portions is the summer of 2013.

DOT said the roundabout on Back Loop will be smaller than the one on Douglas Island, but is wider than first proposed. It was designed so a semi-tractor trailer could fit through it, so boats shouldn’t be a problem.

Construction on the Back Loop section is expected to start sometime around October, as final design, environmental assessments and permitting are wrapping up. The Fritz Cove to Seaview Avenue project shows final design stages early in 2013, with construction beginning in the summer of 2013 through 2014.

Statter Harbor

Construction at Don Statter Harbor and DeHart’s Marina also is expected to start this fall. Phase I of the project was recently awarded to Pacific Pile and Marine out of Seattle. Construction is expected to begin Oct. 1, where DeHart’s Marina will be demolished and two new fingers of floats will be added to Statter Harbor to serve those patrons. Before those floats get built, however, a large portion of the project will be a lot of maintenance construction on the existing Statter Harbor structures. That includes concrete repair, adjusting conduits, replacing large through-bolts and large rubber “donuts” that absorb energy and other wiring considerations.

That phase will wrap up in May, when DeHart’s patrons can move back over. Port Director Carl Uchytil and Deputy Port Engineer Eric Schaal said those patrons will be absorbed throughout the city’s docks over the winter, as they were this year.

Parking in those harbor lots may be limited during construction. The contractor will have space in the parking lot for materials, and it may have temporary closures. Schaal said to watch for signs indicating parking restrictions.

Schaal said access will also look a little different as the gangway is being replaced. A temporary gangway will be installed on the other side of the harbor office.

“Access down to the water will look different, but it will still be accessible,” Schaal said.

Auke Bay Elementary School

Auke Bay Elementary School’s renovation will take place in three phases. The total cost for the project is about $18.7 million, 70 percent of which should be reimbursed by the state.

The building was originally built in 1968.

The project will bring the school up to code in areas like mechanical/electrical, architectural and structural improvements. The parking lot also will be redesigned for better flow and student safety.

Construction should start as soon as school lets out for the summer, June 1. City Engineering Department Director Rorie Watt said there will be significant renovation to one side of the building this summer with a new mechanical unit. There will be four modular classrooms built — basically temporary, trailerable buildings — that will be present through the next school year.

“Some of the kids’ classrooms would not be in the school,” Watt said.

The first portion of the project should wrap up by Dec. 1.

The second phase includes the opposite side of the building, and wraps up around August of 2013. And the third phase works on the center section of the building starting in June of 2013.

“The modulars will be there the entire year,” Watt said. “There will probably be some shifting. Basically there’s never a good time to renovate a school. You are limited in your space management and you just have to do the best you can.”

Bids for the project are in flux at the moment as the initial apparent low-bidder was disqualified. That was Tunista of Anchorage. The city found them to not be a responsible bidder because, Watt said, they hadn’t filed a subcontractor report.

“Tunista has protested that finding,” Watt said. “We have an administrative process to go through. The whole process will unfold in the next couple of weeks.”

It’s been so long since the city had someone protest a bid, it needed to reestablish a bid review board.

McGraw’s Custom Construction was the next low bidder. When the school board learned McGraw’s was the next low bidder, it let out groans at the news and members asked if they had to accept the new low bidder. McGraw’s was the contractor for the district on the Gastineau Elementary School construction last summer, which ran behind schedule.

“With the city’s code, we are a low-bid entity,” Watt said. “We accept the low bid from responsive and responsible bidders. I don’t think anything that happened at Gastineau gets anywhere close to that level. It could be the school board is just reacting to their most recent experience. No matter who the contractor was, there was going to be a crisis at the end of the summer. McGraw also did the Harborview Elementary job.”

Watt called the transition from summer construction to the start of the school year “lumpy.”

“All of the work wasn’t done (by the start of school),” Watt said. “There were some things McGraw ran into during the remodel. From McGraw’s perspective that delayed their ordering and some things were delivered late. We haven’t completely resolved that issue. We have an ongoing discussion and argument over that. We have some responsibility in it.”

Watt said Gastineau’s construction delay can be fairly common with $5 million or more worth of work in 2 1/2 months.

“McGraw’s a fine contractor, there is no reason to not accept their bid based on past experience,” Watt said.

Chuck McGraw, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (which now owns McGraw’s Custom Construction) vice president of business development, said he didn’t understand the concern of the school board.

“We’ve performed many, many projects over there and all successful,” he said. “They were completed on time, on budget. I think perhaps there are some people who just don’t understand construction contracts. We’ve done probably close to $200 million worth of work for CBJ.”

That work includes airport renovations, Harborview Elementary renovations, Dimond Park Aquatic Center construction, work at Floyd Dryden Middle School, and constructed Juneau Elementary School — which is now Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School.

“None of it has ever had one single claim,” McGraw said. “No issues, no liquidated damages. We started working on major projects since 1992. There are some issues that we’re working through (with Gastineau). The important aspect of that project was school did open on time.”
McGraw said they lost three weeks of a 10 week project because at the start of construction there were some changed conditions to be dealt with — primarily asbestos.

“We lost 30 percent of our time right at the beginning,” he said.

McGraw said the company is all ready to go for construction projects in Juneau this summer.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at


  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-586-3740
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2230
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback