Downtown Egan traffic plan altered

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2002

The state has revamped a traffic plan for Egan Drive downtown between Whittier and Main streets to keep four vehicle lanes and to allow left turns onto Willoughby Avenue.

An earlier plan reduced the number of traffic lanes on a section of Egan from four to two and eliminated a left turn from Egan onto Willoughby.

The latest plan will do a better job of limiting congestion, but removes improvements for bicyclists, state Department of Transportation Project Manager Lars Gregovich said Wednesday.

"People thought it was already congested and to take out lanes would make it even more congested," he said. "This keeps it the way it is, adds a signal at Whittier and does eliminate a left-hand turn from Willoughby (onto Egan)."

The new plan also adds a raised median with room for pedestrians from Whittier to Willoughby, and adds a crosswalk across Egan at Willoughby.

Overall, the project aims to reduce speeding, help the flow of traffic and improve safety, according to the state.

"Bike lanes could have been added, but we'd need seven to eight feet from private property on the waterfront side," Gregovich said. "That would mean a loss of parking and prime waterfront."

The state had trouble acquiring right-of-way from property owners in the area for a 1993 traffic project, he said.

The changes drew objections from Frankie Pillifant, chairwoman of the Juneau Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee, at a meeting Wednesday. She described the area as "the gateway into downtown" and urged the state to consider the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.

"It still doesn't provide safe road space for bicyclists if they maintain the speeds as posted," she said. "I ride on the roadway on Egan Drive, but the majority of bicyclists - kids, new riders - aren't comfortable because of the speeds going by. They added wider sidewalks (in the plan), but mixing walking-pace people with biking-pace people is not as safe as it could be."

Pillifant asked the state to reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph on Egan from Whittier to Willoughby so bicyclists feel more comfortable using it.

Sam Kito III, the city's transportation development manager, said the state plan isn't the final solution to traffic problems in the area. The city is pursuing additional studies, particularly between Willoughby and Marine Way, in conjunction with the state, he said.

"The pedestrian and bicycle issue will not go away in our minds," he said. "Lots of issues are going to be looked at in downtown in respect to traffic."

Construction work on the Whittier to Main improvements should begin in early 2003, Gregovich said. The department has a $1.5 million budget for the project's construction.

The state is accepting comments on the new proposal through mid-August. More information is available at www.dot.state.ak.us by clicking on "project information" and then on "Egan Drive-Whittier to Main St. Improvements." Printed copies of the plan are available through the mail.

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



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