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Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
A proposed amendment to the Alaska Department of Transportation's Statewide Transportation Improvement Program would nix a project 11 years in the making to build the Auke Lake Wayside.

DOT: Auke Lake Wayside was not guaranteed funding

The project lost its opportunity for state money, department said

Posted: October 4, 2013 - 7:27am

A Juneau park project that was recently taken off the Alaska Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program was not guaranteed funding, DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said. Auke Lake Wayside had been on the DOT’s to-do list for several years but had been designated as “illustrative,” meaning it would have received funding only if money had become available, he said.

When the Auke Lake Wayside project got its start, the DOT would have footed the bill, Woodrow said. But with each fiscal year, state funding is shifted to keep up with changing needs and projects. The city first started work on the wayside 11 years ago.

“When this project began, there was a pot of money that this fell in, and it would have been funded,” he said. “But because of the time it took to develop this project, the pot of money was no longer available.”

The park was removed from the STIP in the wake of the most recent transportation bill passed by Congress, MAP-21, Woodrow said. The federal bill emphasizes highway and safety improvements, but projects labeled “transportation enhancements,” such as Auke Lake Wayside, were “cut to almost nothing,” he said. Two other wayside projects in the state also lost funding, Woodrow said.

“We removed projects that would be illustrative past seven years,” he said. “They want to see projects that actually can happen.”

The city found out Thursday that the Auke Bay Wayside hadn’t made the cut for the next fiscal year, city Parks and Landscape Superintendent George Schaaf said. CBJ has committed more than a decade and about $30,000 to the project. The state has also spent and budgeted real money, not just illustrative funds, on the park, Schaaf said.

“They’ve eliminated all of it,” he said. “There are plenty of projects still in the STIP that have maintained their illustrative funding.”

The DOT has spent $80,000 on the project, Woodrow said. With it now off the table, that money must be paid back to the federal government. One of the reasons the wayside was nixed was the state’s ability to pay back the $80,000, “in comparison to other projects that meet federal criteria and where the department has spent a higher amount of funding,” Woodrow said.

The wayside had to compete with bridge projects, like Brotherhood Bridge construction, which take top priority in the STIP, he said. Even without the wayside, the STIP includes $51 million in Juneau projects.

Schaaf said the wayside is crucial to safety in the area, and is so close to being completed, not finishing it is frustrating. He said he wants to keep working with DOT to see the project through.

“We manage an extremely popular lake that is being loved to death,” Schaaf said. “This project would not only make Auke Lake a nicer place to spend the day, but it would also protect riparian habitat, improve water quality and provide boaters with a safer, more functional facility.”

The DOT is not against helping to build the park, Woodrow said.

“If the CBJ were to come up with funding, we would help finalize a design so the CBJ could build this park,” he said. “From a federal standpoint, there isn’t funding available to construct the facility.”

But the city can’t afford the project on its own, Schaaf said.

“They withdrew funding to the project, whether it was illustrative funding, or whatever it was,” he said. “They’ve zeroed everything out.”

The decision to remove the project from state plans is not final, Woodrow said. The DOT is taking public comment on the STIP amendment until Oct. 23. Visit www.dot.state.ak.us/stwdplng/cip/stip/howtocomment.shtml for directions on submitting comment.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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