Planning approves Thane Road easement for avalanche cameras

The City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission approved a permit for a 170-foot easement for installation of avalanche-monitoring cameras at the Little Rock Dump along Thane Road.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities applied for the easement of CBJ-owned land.

ADOT&PF owns and maintains Thane Road. The three avalanche paths that cross Thane are a hazard to vehicles and pedestrians, Greg Patz maintenance superintendent for ADOT&PF, said in a phone interview.

“We have to do something to mitigate the hazard,” Patz said.

When snow conditions on Mt. Roberts indicate an avalanche threat, DOT closes Thane and does preventative shoots to bring the snow down while the road is empty.

However, Patz said, on occasion an avalanche comes down unexpectedly.

“The first question on everybody’s mind is, ‘is anybody in there?’” Patz said.

In the past after an unexpected avalanche DOT coordinated with the Juneau Police Department to keep an eye out for reports of missing people — a good indication that someone might be trapped, Patz said.

With the new system, four cameras will monitor the entrance and exit points of the three avalanche zones along Thane Road 24 hours a day seven days a week during avalanche season. The DOT cameras will record vehicles and pedestrians traveling through the avalanche paths on Thane Road.

Emergency responders with JPD and DOT can pull up on the Internet images collected before, during and after an avalanche to determine if a rescue operation is needed.

“If we saw a car or pedestrian go in, snow comes down and no one comes out,” Patz said.

The Department of Transportation has no intention to make this available to public in real time, Patz said.

Patz said DOT estimates the project will cost $650,000. A majority of the funds for the project come from the federal Highway Administration with a state match.

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

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