Four options to improve Egan traffic

Public reviews choices for big changes to Egan

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2003

Plans for overpasses, interchanges and frontage roads on Egan Drive between Yandukin Drive and Industrial Boulevard drew lots of questions and discussion at a public meeting Thursday.

More than 100 people showed up for an open house at the Mendenhall Mall about the state Department of Transportation's traffic plans for the area. Many took detailed maps home to study.

The state is working on four alternatives to improve traffic in what's called the West Egan corridor. Three of the alternatives add interchanges and overpasses that will raise Egan about 25 feet above cross streets. The fourth alternative keeps traffic signals at the intersections, but would add two lanes of traffic to Egan. All four alternatives would extend Riverside Drive south to Glacier Highway.

The state isn't planning to build Los Angeles-style cloverleaf interchanges, DOT project manager Chris Morrow said.

"There are big interchanges and small interchanges, and we think ours are small," he said.

The goal of the project is to improve safety, reduce travel delays, provide better connections for pedestrians and bicyclists, and offer easier access to the Juneau Airport, said Lee Rodegerdts, project manager with Kittleson and Associates, the state's consultant on the project. The corridor has the highest accident rate in Southeast, he said.

Morrow said each option has its pros and cons. Alternative four, which doesn't add overpasses and interchanges, is cheaper and would require less property acquisition, he said. But the options with overpasses are safer, he said.

"They're much more efficient, they have much more capacity," he said. "There are some really good things, but they have more right-of-way impacts, environmental impacts, so there's a downside."

Estimated construction costs for the alternatives range from $46 million to $112 million, planners said. The cost to acquire property, or right of way, could be another $5 million to $14 million. Whatever is decided, the project likely will be built in phases, Morrow said.

People at the meeting could write messages and add colored dots to huge project maps as a way of commenting on details. A proposal to eliminate Industrial Boulevard's direct link to Glacier Highway and reroute traffic to Jensine Drive was covered with red dots, indicating people disagreed. Written messages pointed to salmon habitat and wetlands.

Dave and Sue Clover, who live by Melvin Park, said they were still digesting the information as they left the meeting. Sue Clover said she had mixed feelings about plans to extend Lemon Spur Road behind Fred Meyer to James Boulevard and the McNugget intersection.

"I don't live in that area," she said. "It would be handy, but I can see people who live in that area, their objection to it."

Dave Lefebvre, who lives by the Mendenhall River, said he liked the overpasses. His wife, Nadine, encouraged people to speak out.

"I sincerely hope more of the community gets involved and voices their concern prior to the final decision-making," she said. "Because they can't complain after it's done if they did not get involved. And there are some exciting opportunities here."

Not everyone was happy with the plans. Auke Bay resident Dick Myren stood in the hallway outside the meeting, handing out fliers objecting to the state plans and the city's areawide transportation plan.

Myren said he'd like more focus on park-and-ride options, Capital Transit and a tram or light rail system between the Mendenhall Valley and downtown.

"The whole transportation direction has got to be oriented to the future, not this building more highways," he said. "It's automobile-intensive. The whole thing should be looked at again."

Morrow said the state's plans won't preclude a park-and-ride system or light rail, and will improve city bus service. All of the options will provide better pedestrian and bicycle access, he added.

"What we're doing will enhance transit," he said. "It will provide, I think, a better circulation opportunity. Extending Riverside Drive, I think, is a big plus as far as the bus."

Once the state selects a preferred alternative for the project, it will embark on a detailed environmental study, which could take a year or two to complete, Morrow said. It's too early to say when changes could occur, he added.

More information is available at online at projects.ch2m.com/WEDCOR/. Maps of the plans are under the documents link.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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