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City picks Vanderbilt for crossing

Posted: Saturday, June 26, 2010

By ERIC MORRISON

JUNEAU EMPIRE

The Juneau Assembly approved a resolution at its regular meeting Monday night identifying Vanderbilt Hill Road as the preferred community alternative for a second crossing of Gastineau Channel.

Assembly members also approved the appropriation of almost $3 million to buy the Old Armory downtown, and they raised a fine for unauthorized use of garbage containers from $50 to $75.

The resolution supporting Vanderbilt Hill Road for the North Douglas Crossing does not mean that is where the bridge would necessarily be built, but rather expresses the Assembly's support of the location. The resolution urges the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to "pursue the North Douglas Crossing project with deliberate speed."

Emotional public testimony was given by several North Douglas residents expressing concerns of potential effects to property owners who live in the potential path of a second crossing.

Walter Majoris, speaking on behalf of the North Douglas Neighborhood Association, said a resolution identifying a preferred community alternative is premature until funding for the project has been identified.

The resolution was based on findings of a Sheinberg Associates consultant team report and a public survey finding the Vanderbilt Hill Road location as the community preferred alternative. The two other location considerations for a second crossing were Sunny Point and Yandukin Drive.

Sheinberg Associates identified Vanderbilt Hill as the preferred location because it is the shortest crossing of the Mendenhall State Game Refuge; it avoids areas used more intensively by waterfowl hunters; it would have the least impact on the airport; and it has the least estimated construction costs, among other things.

Public testimony was also given by supporters of the Vanderbilt Hill Road alternative and a second crossing.

Linda Thomas, representing the West Douglas Development Working Group, said there has to be a tangible crossing area selected to move forward with the project.

Lance Miller, executive director of the Juneau Economic Development center, said development of North Douglas is important to the future of the community.

"We really need to move forward with something now," he said.

In other developments at Monday's meeting, the Assembly passed an ordinance increasing the health and sanitation fine for unauthorized use of garbage containers from $50 to $75.

City Manager Rod Swope said unauthorized disposal of garbage in the city's harbor Dumpsters is a problem that increases operational costs for the city. The Docks and Harbors Board estimates that half of its solid waste disposal expense is attributed to unauthorized use of the harbor Dumpsters, he said.

Also, the Old Armory at the corner of Egan Drive and Whittier Street is the newest acquisition by the city. The Assembly approved an ordinance appropriating $2,936,500 to buy the facility from the Alaska Mental Health Trust on Monday night.

There is no long-range plan for the facility, but the structure may be leased to the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council for a performing arts center, Swope said. The parking lot will continue to be leased to the State for extra parking, he said.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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