A last-minute change in federal highway funding will delay a controversial plan to remove bicycle lanes from the Douglas Bridge to make room for a reversible center lane.
The state, however, will move forward with plans this year to repave the bridge and construct a circular roadway called a roundabout to improve traffic congestion.
Bicyclists who opposed removal of the bike lanes say the delay will give the community time to determine if the reversible lane is necessary.
"The loss of funding is a shame for all of us," said Rob Welton, a spokesman for the Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club. "That's a shot in the arm for our economy. We are hopeful that it will demonstrate that it will work without removing the bicycle lane.
Alaska Department of Transportation planning chief Jeff Ottesen said language in the federal highway funding bill was changed in a conference committee in February, requiring Alaska to spend $61 million in earmarked projects.
That means about 20 percent of Alaskas $315 million in transportation funding will have to be rerouted from other projects to earmarked projects.
DOT project planner Andy Hughes said $7.5 million was diverted from transportation projects in Southeast to cover the earmarked projects.
We are having to slim down our program this year because we didnt receive as much as we thought we would, Hughes said.
He said improvements to the Douglas Bridge will come in two phases.
The first phase will include adding the roundabout on the Douglas side of the bridge, repaving the bridge roadway and replacing bridge joints, navigational lights for boats and tidal gages, Hughes said. Those improvements will cost about $2.4 million.
DOT Design Chief Tracey Moore said construction and renovations could begin as early as mid-August. The work for Phase 1 is scheduled to begin completed no later than Oct. 1, 2005, Hughes said.
Phase 2 of the project might not happen for two to five years or more, Hughes said. The portion of the project would entail removing bicycle lanes and adding a third reversible center lane to ease the congestion during peak traffic times in the morning and evening, according to DOT engineering manager Pete Bednarowicz. It also would add a second left turn lane onto the bridge from Egan Drive and widen sidewalks on 10th Street.
Well see how the near-term improvements work, Hughes said. We expect our community will continue to grow and our traffic will continue to grow as well.
Hughes said the second phase of the project would cost about $2.6 million.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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