City ponders water taxi, underpasses

Resdients to have voice in transportation plan for Juneau

Posted: Monday, April 02, 2001

In 20 years, Juneau drivers headed to town could park in Douglas and take a water taxi across Gastineau Channel, easing congestion in the downtown area.

It's one of more than 60 recommendations in a draft plan adopted by the city Transportation Steering Committee on Friday. If the public likes it and the Juneau Assembly approves it, the Juneau Area Wide Transportation Plan could drive local road projects for the next two decades.

"I'm excited we're getting it out to the public and we're going to get it accepted within the next couple months," said Assembly member Ken Koelsch, chairman of the committee. "What that will do for us is give us a blueprint of where to go in the next 20 years."

The project began 2 1/2 years ago when the city hired an Oregon consultant to analyze transportation systems and offer ways to fix problems, especially the major congestion expected in some areas by 2020. The consultant divided the borough into seven zones and identified problem areas by assuming the population would grow from 30,000 to 37,000 in 20 years. The consultant also assumed the number of cars on the road would grow at a rate of 1.5 percent a year.

The plan makes recommendations for each of the seven areas to ease traffic and improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. The recommendations are listed by priority, with some proposals sharing the same ranking, although Koelsch said the priorities could change. The plan will go before an Assembly work session this week, then out for public comment in April or May, Koelsch said. The following is a snapshot describing a few of the 66 proposed solutions.

Areawide

The plan lists two projects as number-one priorities areawide. The first proposal is to build underpasses or overpasses at intersections on Egan Drive between 10th Street and Riverside Drive. The plan does not specify which intersections. The second top priority is to double bus service during peak hours along existing routes. Under the plan, buses would stop every 30 minutes, instead of every hour.

It also suggests several sidewalk and bike route improvements to better accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. The plan ranks a second bridge across Gastineau Channel seventh out of eight priorities, and it recommends preserving the Egan Drive median as a future route for buses, high occupancy vehicles, or light rail systems.

Downtown/Thane Road

The plan also lists two proposals as top priorities in this section. The first proposal suggests ways to reduce congestion at the 10th Street and Egan Drive intersection and lists several options, including additional traffic lanes and an underpass or overpass. The second top priority suggests making Egan Drive safer between Main Street and Glacier Avenue (the road by Gold Creek). Options there include narrowing travel lanes to discourage speeding, extending sidewalks, and adding bike lanes.

The plan also suggests shuttle service between remote parking lots and downtown to reduce the number of cars there. Recommendations also suggest reconstructing Thane Road as a two-lane roadway with sidewalks and bike lanes, building a road next to Egan to connect Aurora Harbor and Harris Harbor and building new parking areas at the edge of downtown.

Douglas Island

The top priority under the plan is to control traffic at the intersection on the Douglas side of the bridge where cars from Douglas Highway and North Douglas Highway meet. The plan recommends several options, including a traffic circle, additional roadways and/or a traffic light.

The second wish is to add more crosswalks, sidewalks and bus pullouts and shelters on Douglas Highway. The fifth priority is to build another road from the bridge running parallel to North Douglas Highway. An extension of North Douglas Highway to west Douglas Island ranks sixth on the list.

Twin Lakes/Lemon Creek

The top priority is to revamp the intersection at Glacier Highway and Anka Street (the road that leads to Costco). The Juneau Planning Commission already has approved a plan to add new lanes and a traffic light there, and the state expects to complete the project by August.

Other suggestions include building a new road connecting Anka Street and Davis Street to ease congestion on Glacier Highway. Under the plan, the new road would be the primary route to Lemon Creek Correctional Facility. The seventh and last priority is to build a road to accommodate new development to the north of Lemon Creek.

Mendenhall Valley/Airport/Nugget Mall

The first priority is to improve Riverside Drive. Options include linking Riverside to Back Loop Road by extending it or by crossing Mendenhall River by Melvin Park and connecting with Back Loop Road between River Road and Steelhead Street. It also calls for maintaining existing bike lane striping and providing bus pullouts and shelters.

The second priority is to turn Mendenhall Loop Road into a four-lane boulevard with a landscaped median to induce slower speeds. It also suggests a traffic circle at the Back Loop Road and Glacier Spur Road intersection.

The sixth priority is to build a path at the base of Thunder Mountain connecting the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area to Egan Drive. The plan also suggests that the city buy Mendenhall Mall Road, which is privately owned, and add landscaping, bus pullouts and shelters, bike lanes and better access to parking areas.

Industrial Boulevard/Engineer's Cut-Off Road, Back Loop Road

The No. 1 priority is to widen the Brotherhood Bridge and ease traffic at the Industrial Boulevard intersection near Don Abel Building Supplies. The second wish is to provide lighting and build bike lanes and sidewalks on Industrial Boulevard, Engineer's Cutoff Road and Fritz Cove Road.

Auke Bay/Glacier Highway

The top solution is to build a traffic circle or install a traffic light where Back Loop Road intersects with Glacier Highway. The second priority is to widen Glacier Highway to include bike lanes and sidewalks from Tee Harbor to the end of the road.

Kathy Dye may be reached at kdye@juneauempire.com.



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