My turn: New garage carefully planned

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2008

R espectfully, a recent My Turn regarding the city's proposed downtown parking garage and transit center project contained significant misinformation.

The writer suggests that the project is being pursued with "questionable process and undue speed." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Over the past 11 months, I have guided an extensive public planning and design process that has included a minimum of 18 public meetings, including seven visits to the Juneau Planning Commission. Additionally, the city Web site (Hot Topics link, on the right side of the main page toward the bottom) has many documents, renderings, reports and studies. Since September, the information has all been there for public inspection.

Those interested in traffic issues can read two traffic studies that show that there will not be a congestion problem once the facility is built. In fact, we are even proposing an additional follow up project, a re-build of Main Street, complete with trees and widened sidewalks.

The writer also suggests that the project is inconsistent with the Waterfront Plan. This is not true; the project and the land on which it is proposed are not in that plan. Moreover, a goal of the project is to allow re-development of waterfront parking lots, which is consistent with the plan.

While it is true that a 2003 Transit Study selected a different site for the transit center, that study had fatal problems, and was never adopted by the Juneau Assembly. The permanent transit center is proposed to stay in its present location, and presents a great improvement for transit operations and its patrons.

As for money, yes parking is expensive, and yes, our cost estimate exceeds the current project funding. There is a simple reason for that. When the voters approved the sales tax extension in 2005, we did not have a completed design, had not run an extensive public process. The proposed structures, and cost estimates, are the result of that process.

Sure, there are cheaper options, but the public would not be as well served by a poorly sited or more cheaply designed garage and transit center. The good news is that we have solutions for Assembly consideration to the funding shortfall.

Healthy debate is the hallmark of good government. But, please, let's have that debate based on facts and accurate information.

Finally, the writer claims that the proposed facility would be intrusive in scale. I disagree. We have carefully sited the proposed garage away from the intersection, and into the hillside specifically to protect view planes. Please go to the Web site, see the project information, and draw your own conclusions. I welcome your comments, questions, participation and suggestions.

• Rorie Watt is deputy director of engineering for the city of Juneau.

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