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CBJ: West Douglas road tops N. Douglas bridge in timeline

Posted: October 12, 2012 - 12:05am
City Lands and Resources Manager Heather Marlow gives a presentation on the city's plans to build a two-and-a-half mile pioneer road to the west side of Douglas Island at the Chamber of Commerce's luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
City Lands and Resources Manager Heather Marlow gives a presentation on the city's plans to build a two-and-a-half mile pioneer road to the west side of Douglas Island at the Chamber of Commerce's luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday.

North Douglas residents will have a road to the west side of the island before they’ll get a second bridge to the mainland.

The City and Borough of Juneau will focus on permitting and construction of at least the first phase of the West Douglas Road before it moves to Douglas’s second crossing bridge project, Heather Marlow, CBJ lands and resources manager said. Marlow spoke at the Camber of Commerce lunch lecture series on Thursday.

“[A bridge] will come in once we see traffic volumes that start to justify a second crossing,” Marlow said. “Those two pieces go together in my mind. Once you get that bridge in, whether there is additional development on west Douglas or not; once you bring in that bridge to Douglas you’re going to see an increase in traffic on Douglas Highway. The bench road really, to me, is tied to the second crossing, as it is to West Douglas development.”

However, the wait might not be that long.

Earlier this year, the CBJ Assembly Committee of the Whole directed its staff to pursue three possible routes.

The first phase of construction extends a pioneer road from the west end of the current Douglas Highway. Preliminary design and permitting is expected to be complete within a year to 18 months. This phase of road construction could be complete within 2.5 years. Barring the unexpected.

“Well, you know, we’re positive,” Marlow said.

As a pioneer road, the city plans to close West Douglas Road in the winter to avoid snow-clearing expense. Future phases of the project will bring the pioneer road up to the standard of the rest of the Douglas Highway.

The West Douglas Road project has $3 million in funding, enough to build the first 2.5 miles of the pioneer road. The city has partnered with Goldbelt Incorporated on the project, which brings road access to Goldbelt land.

For those who’ve always wanted to drive all the way around Douglas Island, the opportunity may be on the horizon — a very, very distant horizon.

“It’s something like 200 years out,” Marlow said in a phone interview.

CBJ has access to land holdings that should last for the next 200 years to 300 years. The city has the land and the very long range plan to build a road that circumnavigates Douglas Island.

CBJ is in a unique situation for municipalities. It has land to last generations with a single line devoted to how these parcels should be used, Marlow said, “manage land for public services.”

The city interprets this as a need to balance near-term disposal of land, long-term disposal and stewardship of lands, Marlow said. This interpretation has remained steady for years, she said. What changes are decisions about what should be disposed of now, what should wait and what should be put into stewardship.

“Those are continuous active decisions,” Marlow said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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