Turnaround eases congestion; city plans next phase

Next stage includes improvements at bus stop and for truck access

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Rose Harris has been keeping an eye on traffic in the city's new turnaround in front of the Marine Park Garage.

"Traffic moves all the time and more people cross at designated areas," she said. "It's a major thing. You can get in and out of the parking garage and there's very little waiting."

Rose and her husband, Don, own the Red Dog Saloon and the Cookhouse on Admiral Way. While they said the turnaround has improved traffic, they are concerned about plans to create a multi-use plaza in front of their businesses. If the parking area is shut down for an event, it would create congestion in a place where improvements were just made, Don Harris said.

"It's a contradiction," he said. "It's detrimental to a concept that just got done."

Nevertheless, Don Harris said he had no objections to aesthetic changes or improvements to the turning radius along the route.

The city built the teardrop-shaped turnaround this spring to ease congestion and reduce pedestrian-vehicle conflicts, according to Rorie Watt of the city's engineering department.

"There's been a lot of positive comments about it," he said.

The next stage of the project could include improvements to a bus stop in front of the parking garage, the addition of public art, and changes to make it easier for large trucks to move through the area, he said. The city also is looking at adding a chess or picnic table and landscaping details along Admiral Way. The street could be shut down for special events, although the city needs to figure out when and how it could be closed, Watt said.

The city hosted a meeting Tuesday about the proposed improvements. The $400,000 project was funded with cruise ship passenger fees. There isn't enough money remaining in the budget to complete all of the proposed changes, Watt said.

Jose Ferrer, who owns Erlinda's Gift Shop across the street from the turnaround, said it has helped people walk through the area. A clock and a restroom in the area should be next on the list, he said.

"Two questions I get every morning. 'What time you have?' And 'where is the restroom?' " he said.

Daniel Bisett, a bus driver for Stories and Legends city and glacier tour, was stopped by the cruise ship dock on Tuesday evening. He wasn't in town last year, but said he likes the turnaround.

"I wish it was a little bigger so we could do a full loop if we absolutely need to," he said. "The yield (sign) is a little confusing for people."

Alaska Marine Lines trucks make more than 100 trips a day through the area, according to Don Reid, AML vice president of operations. The project has turned out better than expected, he said.

"We hope they don't do anything to further restrict our capabilities to take long loads through," he said.

The Assembly's Public Works and Facilities Committee reviewed the turnaround plans earlier this month. Assembly member and committee chairman Ken Koelsch said the turnaround and crossing guards are helping to keep traffic moving downtown. The next project for the city is to work on congestion near the Mount Roberts Tram parking lot, he said.

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

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