The engineers at the state Department of Transportation face a tough assignment in dealing with the future of the Egan Drive-10th Street intersection.
In approaching their task, they must remember that the goal is to make things better. A solution that creates new traffic-flow problems, unnecessary inconveniences and unacceptable neighborhood impacts is no solution at all.
And the cheapest approach is not necessarily the best. Better plans can be expected to involve more reconfiguring of the intersection and therefore be more expensive.
Consultants hired by DOT developed 12 proposals for Egan-10th, but recommended only four. Presumably, those four are considered by the consultants to be the best. The prices range from $8.5 million to $35 million.
The state adopted the cheapest recommendation as its preferred option. After hearing from some members of the public, the DOT appears to be having second thoughts.
"There are some pretty substantial impacts that we're looking at right now," said Pat Carroll, DOT's Egan-10th project manager. "It's conceivable that we could do nothing because the solution may turn out to be worse than the ailments."
Carroll's comments represent a refreshing dose of candor to most Juneau drivers and to the people living near Egan and 10th.
The preferred option gives drivers coming toward town from Douglas one primary route if they want to drive toward the Valley: They can cross Egan and stay on 10th for two blocks until they come to a stoplight at Glacier, then turn left onto Glacier for two blocks until they come to another stoplight at 12th, then turn left for two blocks until they get back to Egan and another stoplight, and then turn right onto outbound Egan. That's four stoplights and six blocks to reach a point (Egan at 12th) they can reach now in one block and one stoplight.
Drivers leaving downtown toward the Valley would be forced off Egan and onto Glacier. By the time they reconnect with Egan at 12th, they will have gone through five stoplights in a distance of about eight blocks. The section of Egan they travel today has one stoplight.
The least-affected drivers probably are those coming toward downtown or Douglas on Egan from the Valley. Egan's proposed inbound, one-way configuration will feature stoplights at 12th, at 10th and at Glacier. Inbound drivers who normally turn left at 12th, which becomes Calhoun en route to the Governor's Mansion and downtown, would no longer be able to access 12th at Egan.
Those are just the obvious impacts on drivers. There also are impacts on residents and regular users of the area around which traffic is proposed to flow.
Twelfth Street between Egan and Glacier would become a one-way route that picks up the outbound traffic from downtown and from Douglas. As its exists today, 12th is a side street providing access to the 62-unit Mountainview Apartments, which houses residents age 62 and older as well as the disabled; to the Juneau Senior Center; to the school administration building; and to Harborview Elementary School's covered play area.
The preferred traffic pattern would "totally isolate" Mountainview's residents, said Amy Hiley, Juneau area coordinator for the Alaska Housing Finance Corp., which owns Mountainview. She said the one-way street would make it impossible for specially equipped vans to make curbside pick-ups and drop-offs of the elderly and disabled citizens.
Additionally, "We will have major traffic on three sides, which means major traffic noise on three sides," said Hiley. "We've already had to transfer residents from the Egan Drive side to other parts of the building."
We encourage the DOT to consider the seniors and children who will be affected by the rerouting of traffic. DOT should keep other options in play and realize that the cheapest fix short-term may require more retrofits, causing it to become much more expensive in the long-term.