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Rethinking traffic along Point Lena

Residents' concerns about NOAA facility prompt Assembly members to reconsider routes

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2001

After a meeting with neighbors on Wednesday, Juneau Assembly members say they'll take another look at access to proposed fisheries centers at Point Lena.

Lena area residents asked for the meeting to make the case for an interior road with separate access to keep new traffic off Lena Loop Road, the main route through the largely rural peninsula near 17-mile Glacier Highway. At a committee meeting in March, Assembly members asked city staff to take the separated access route off the list and explore other alternatives, citing concerns about safety, engineering and cost.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has contributed $1.7 million to mitigate traffic concerns at Point Lena, and the city has added another $1 million to the total. NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and the University of Alaska are planning to build fisheries research centers there. The NOAA project is expected to cost $50 million.

Resident Lars Gregovich said an arch culvert overpass separating a new road from Lena Loop would likely cost less than city estimates and would address neighborhood concerns. The city should re-evaluate overpass structures and costs, he said.

"I don't think anyone's interested in a gold-plated design," he said. "We need to bring the overpass estimate down to earth."

 

Future development resulting from an interior road or the sale of surplus rock from fisheries center construction could help fund the project, Gregovich said, adding the city also could increase the project's budget.

Neighbors want to maintain the rural residential character of the area, JoAnn Schoeppe told the seven Assembly members and about 40 residents attended the meeting.

Tom Lawson, vice president of the Lena Extended Neighborhood Association, said the group doesn't have a recommendation about which of three proposed interior road routes would be best, but wants to make sure the new road is safe.

"Things have gotten testy, and have gotten emotional. But I think if we keep working together we can get where we want to go," he said.

The neighborhood had considered cul-de-sacs or a gate to control access from the new fisheries center road to Lena Loop, but concerns about city maintenance of the road led residents to focus on the overpass, Lawson said.

In addition to neighborhood issues, Mayor Sally Smith said the Assembly will need to consider engineering feasibility, long-term maintenance, project costs and the role of the city and the state.

"It's a very sticky issue and there's not an easy solution," she said.

Deputy Mayor John MacKinnon said the Assembly would schedule a work session to reaffirm the original decision or change it based on public comment.

"We're still open," he said.

Assembly member Ken Koelsch said he was at the meeting to listen. There's room to negotiate, he said.

"We'll try to incorporate the comments and suggestions," he said.

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



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