Empire Editorial: A safer alternative is needed

The intersection of Yandukin Drive and Egan Drive is a tragedy waiting to happen.

This intersection allows motorists to turn across the inbound lanes of Egan Drive for easy access to Juneau International Airport, businesses in the area of Old Dairy Road and an alternate route to Nugget Mall. It also allows inbound drivers access to Fred Meyer and the continuation of Glacier Highway.

It is indeed a critical part of our road system, but too many accidents occur there.

This past week three people were injured after a teenager making that left turn toward Yandukin did so in front of an oncoming van, sending both drivers and the passenger in the van to the hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

This isn’t the first accident there.

It isn’t OK to leave things as they are because no one got killed this time. The state’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has to stop playing Russian roulette with this patch of Egan and come up with a workable solution, creating an intersection that is as safe as possible.

Those who use the intersection during the summer will remember the temporary closure for improvements to those turn lanes. That closure made for a longer drive to those in the air tour industry, users of the Fred Meyer store and for workers in the nearby commercial district, proving this intersection’s value.

The lane improvements did seem to increase visibility. They do nothing, and unfortunately no improvement there ever completely will, to mitigate the human factors that often lead to traffic accidents.

It may be time to study installing a traffic light activated by vehicles using the turn lanes.

We expect resistance to that idea, not only from some motorists but from the state itself.

About a year ago when the city was hashing-out details of the plan to develop the Willoughby District and create more waterfront access it became clear during the Assembly’s meeting that the state wants to keep traffic flowing on Egan without interruption. The state, planners said, oversees the patch of Egan leading into downtown and doesn’t want additional stoplights or pedestrian crossings that would be required downtown to improve waterfront access in front of the Willoughby area.

We have to assume the same policy would apply to the rest of Egan, and we agree that the free flow of traffic in both directions is important.

That being said, it would be costly (and ugly) to build an overpass that would then have to be plowed during periods of snow and ice to handle traffic to the airport.

We hope the state can come up with a creative solution to make this dangerous intersection safer for the residents and visitors who use it. More accidents there are inevitable as long as the major route to our international airport requires a turn across oncoming traffic traveling at 55 mph.

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