Thane residents seek safer road in city's long-term plan

Group requesting extension of sea walk to Sheep Creek

Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thane Road is not safe for motorists, runners, hikers or bikers, and the city needs to address the problem in its comprehensive plan, says the president of the Thane Neighborhood Association.

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Juneau's Community Development Department is reviewing the city's comprehensive plan, which is expected to be revised by September. The last update was more than a decade ago.

Larri Irene Spengler, association president, said it is time to improve the neighborhood road south of downtown, where recreationists and cars share the narrow two-lane road above Gastineau Channel.

"The condition of Thane Road and its use by vehicles, bikers and pedestrians present severe danger, both to the people in the vehicles and to the bikers, joggers, walkers, and berry pickers," Spengler said. "Road safety suggestions are some of our most important and unified suggestions submitted as an association."

The citywide plan update includes alternate means of transportation, including the suggestion of bike paths. But there is no mention of a separated sea walk, or a bike path to Sheep Creek, Spengler said. The group suggests the extension of the downtown sea walk to Sheep Creek be explicitly included in this section.

The association encourages the upgrading of Thane Road with the portion from Taku Smokeries/Fisheries to the city sewer treatment plant as the highest priority and from the sewer treatment plant to Sheep Creek next, Spengler said. The chances of actually improving the highway are minimal because it is a state highway low on the funding priority list, Spengler said. But all reconstruction of Thane Road should include pedestrian and bike lanes, the association recommends.


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"They (the association) are offering good suggestions, but the problem would be to actually implement some of the projects," Community Development Department Project Architect Susana Montana said. "The sea walk is an example of that."

There is no city easement for the sea walk from the cruise docks to Sheep Creek. The state maintains Thane Road.

"Avalanche control and highway improvements are a big expense that the city has no plans to take on," Montana said. "A boardwalk would be another option, but that would also be very expensive if possible."

The city should not permit any new or expanding businesses or developments that would add to the commercial vehicle traffic on Thane Road until the road is made safe for all users, association member Paula Terrel said.

But in April the Juneau Planning Commission approved a conditional-use permit for location of a kennel and operation of a sled-dog tour for Alaska Icefield Expedition, Inc., near Sheep Creek. On May 5 Terrel, representing the Thane Neighborhood Association, filed an appeal of the decision.

"The increasing number of vehicles may cause an even bigger danger to all users, which is one thing we are very concerned about," Terrel said. "There are no reports of accidents, but near misses that occur everyday are not reported."

Efforts to reach representatives of Alaska Icefield Expedition on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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