When a North Douglas crossing was first studied during the mid-1980s, Juneau planners proposed 15 places the bridge could extend over Gastineau Channel. Today that number has dwindled to three and public officials are asking for help in narrowing it down to one.
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Roughly 80 residents packed Centennial Hall on Wednesday evening to listen to a presentation by Sheinberg Associates, a consulting firm hired by the city to help narrow the choices. Roughly one-quarter of those who attended the public hearing shared opinions on a favored route. Some criticized the need for a bridge at all.
"The ultimate route selected may very well determine if we can live in our current location," said Douglas resident Mike Plotnick. He lives on Fish Creek Road, which would be most heavily affected by a Yandukin Drive bridge option.
Residents are being asked to weigh in on plans for a crossing that would begin either at Yandukin Drive, Sunny Point or Vanderbilt Hill Road and end at various locations along North Douglas Highway between Mile 5 and Fish Creek Road.
All three routes are located east of the Juneau International Airport on the Juneau side. One option would begin with a tunnel dug under the airport's runway.
Jan. 30: Public meeting at 7 p.m. at St. Paul's Catholic Church Parish Hall on 9055 Atlin Drive.
Feb. 7: Deadline for written public comments. Comments can be submitted online at www.juneau.org.
January-February: Community opinion survey might be conducted.
February: Publish report with findings and recommendations and submit it to Juneau Assembly.
More info: Juneau.org - North Douglas Crossing
Some said that regardless of which bridge is chosen, a road paralleling North Douglas Highway should be constructed to alleviate inevitable heavier traffic flow along the highway.
Other residents cited concerns that all three bridge proposals would cross the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge.
"It is pretty valuable to be able to see these animals close to town," said Phillip Gray, a Douglas resident. He said any choice would affect not only homeowners, but also bird-watchers and waterfowl hunters.
"I guess the major beneficiaries of this road are going to be developers," he said.
Jan Caulfield of Sheinberg Associates said that if a proposal is selected, it must comply with the Clean Water Act.
A 2003 survey showed that a crossing was greatly supported by Juneau residents, she said. Sixty-three percent of residents wanted a bridge, with even more support shown among North Douglas residents. There, 75 percent of those surveyed favored a crossing.
No funding has been slated to construct the bridge or even complete the required environmental review process. Cost estimates range from $68.1 million to $330.4 million and vary depending on both route and type of bridge.
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Federal law mandates that a 50-by-50-foot vessel be able to pass through the Gastineau Channel, which requires the bridge to either be high enough or moveable to allow boats to pass.
The Juneau Assembly labeled a North Douglas crossing a high priority in October 2005 as a way to prepare for future growth, provide better emergency access and address traffic concerns that are beginning to pinch the Douglas Bridge.
"Of course this is the middle of the project. It is certainly not the end," Caulfield said. "A lot of work needs to be done to bring a crossing into reality. This is a dynamic process."
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