Second crossing is a suburban fantasy

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, February 16, 2007

With all the discussion about the second crossing, few seem to acknowledge that the project is deservedly rated extremely low by state transportation planners. The reason is that it's not really needed either for transportation or for emergencies.

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What the second crossing would do is simply extend suburban sprawl into North Douglas. Its principal benefit is to enable Juneau to continue its outmoded 1950s zoning plan, whose rigid separation of commercial, industrial and residential ensures that everyone will have to drive for their every need, whether to go to work, to visit friends or to buy a quart of milk. The high gasoline usage necessitated by this model countrywide is one reason why the United States is in its present energy predicament. Every investment in suburban sprawl is a commitment to decades of increased oil consumption.

Juneau's planners have shown a stubborn resistance to learning from the past and from other communities. As our downtown retail core died, we facilitated more box stores, hastening the destruction of our local merchants. Instead of building stores with apartments over them, we make bigger parking lots. Rather than encouraging public transportation, we knock down buildings to make room for more cars.

Juneau had an opportunity for change with its Areawide Transportation Plan of 2001, but unfortunately the many good ideas in it were hijacked in the final hours by misguided "development" advocates, and the principal outcome was to move the second crossing and overpasses for Egan Drive to the top of the priority list. That's why the second crossing is still being planned, though the state has no intention of building it.

Juneau needs to grow up and move to a higher-density, mixed-use model if it wants to provide lower-cost housing, vibrant urban environments and less gasoline usage. This is not an anti-development stance: It's a smart development stance. Juneau's builders are neither greedy nor stupid: They're just bound by an outmoded set of zoning codes. It's time to stop wasting energy on a phantom second crossing and get to work changing our archaic urban planning. The '50s ended a long time ago.

Stuart Cohen


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