A different way to Douglas: DOT pitches bridge plan

Proposal includes roundabout on Douglas side, three lanes on bridge

Posted: Tuesday, July 23, 2002

The Alaska Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on a new plan to ease congestion on and near the Douglas Bridge.

Work to widen the intersection at 10th Street and Egan Drive, reconfigure the bridge surface to add a third lane, and construct a circular roadway on the Douglas side could begin as early as next summer if approved by the city.

DOT will present the proposal at a public meeting Thursday night in the Egan Room at Centennial Hall.

The plan would make room for a reversible center lane on the bridge by removing two 6-foot bike lanes, said DOT's Chris Morrow. The new center lane would be one way from Douglas Island to Juneau for three or four hours during the morning, when more traffic travels toward town. For the rest of the day the lane would carry traffic from the mainland to Douglas.

Overhead signal lights on either side of the bridge would tell motorists when the center lane is open. DOT also plans to resurface the bridge, Morrow said.

In addition to creating a center lane, DOT plans to construct a circular roadway, called a roundabout, at the intersection of Douglas Highway and North Douglas Highway. Morrow said the roundabout would alleviate traffic congestion from North Douglas motorists trying to turn left onto the bridge.

The project would widen parts of 10th Street and Egan, adding an extra left turn lane headed outbound on Egan and a right turn lane on 10th Street.

Morrow said the project is estimated to cost $8.5 million and could be completed as early as next year. DOT does not have a detailed estimate of how long the project would take, but construction would happen some time between April and October, Morrow said.

The new proposal comes more than a year after the city rejected a plan to route outbound cars from Douglas to Glacier Avenue and make part of Egan Drive into a one-way highway. Many Juneau Assembly members and residents opposed the plan because of concerns the rerouting would send too much traffic into residential areas and past schools.

"We've gone back to the drawing board and come up with a solution that has very little effect on the school, neighborhood and senior center," Morrow said.

DOT told the Assembly last year that traffic at the intersection would increase 40 percent within the next 20 years. Morrow said the estimate is based on a 1.5 percent compounded growth rate projected through 2022. The areawide traffic growth rate is at about 2 percent, he said.

He said traffic grows inconsistently. There had been little traffic growth at the intersection for the last few years, but last year saw an increase of roughly 4 percent, he said.

Although the plan has not been presented to the public, some already are questioning the design.

Dave Ringle, president of the Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club, said he has not seen the proposal but opposes removing bicycle lanes on the Douglas Bridge.

"There has to be a safe way for the average recreational cyclist to get across that bridge safely," Ringle said.

He said removing the lanes could hamper fund-raising rides such as the annual Tour de Cure, which raises money for diabetes research. Cyclists often cross the bridge in groups during such events, Ringle said.

Morrow said the plan still leaves some room for cyclists to share the road with motorists. He also said many cyclists prefer to use the existing 6-foot-wide pedestrian walkway, which would not be removed by the project.

During a bike-to-work day in 2001, Morrow said DOT counted the number of cyclists using the bridge and the sidewalk. Of the 57 cyclists who crossed the bridge during a 12-hour period, 26 rode on the sidewalk, he said.

If DOT receives local concurrence on the proposal, it will take the plan to the city. Morrow said he hopes to present a formal plan to the Assembly by fall or winter.

Thursday's informational event will include an open house from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. and presentations at 5 and 7 p.m.

Comments on the plan can be sent to Kathryn Erickson, Project Environmental Coordinator, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, 6860 Glacier Highway, Juneau, 99801-7779. e-mail: kathryn_erickson@dot.state.ak.us.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.

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