Juneau's latest teapot tempest is shaping up nicely. We seem intent on arguing how to reconfigure the Douglas Bridge in a manner that borders on the absurd.
The proposal to convert the existing bridge into a cramped, convertible three-lane bridge without decent access for bike traffic would be funny if not for the expense associated with the proposal. Does anyone really think we need convertible lanes for the daily 15-minute "rush hour" traffic?
There are problems with the existing Douglas Bridge that need to be fixed. Everyone seems to agree that construction of a "roundabout" on the Douglas Island side of the bridge will alleviate traffic conflicts. Surely everyone harbors a desire that the expansion joints on the bridge are finally fixed. But do we really need to reconfigure the bridge with three narrow lanes in order to even out the traffic flow?
Juneau has a twice-daily problem with traffic flow on the mainland side of the Douglas Bridge. Particularly in the morning and especially when snow or ice makes driving more challenging, traffic slows and cars sometimes get backed up on the bridge.
The solution to this situation is to widen one side or perhaps both sides of the bridge on the mainland side of the structure. Instead of creating a complicated and narrow three-lane bridge, extend and double the right turn lanes adjacent to the existing structure.
Imagine approaching the mainland on the Douglas Bridge and having a left turn lane, a left turn/straight lane and two right lanes.
The improved and extended right turn lanes would increase traffic flow to the departments of Fish and Game and Labor. Traffic flow for vehicles traveling south on Egan would be enhanced. These improvements could easily be made without eliminating separate lanes or space for bikes or pedestrians.
Instead of a gimmicky solution that requires reversible lanes, reduction of lane width and loss of bike routes, how about if we just improve the turn lane areas on the mainland side of the Douglas Bridge. All we really need is a bit more "rolling storage" for vehicles approaching the mainland during our little rush hour.
Spending highway funds to reduce the safety conflicts on the Douglas Island side of the bridge is intelligent. Improving traffic flow by providing additional turn lanes on the mainland seems smart. Fixing the expansion joints on both sides of the bridge is long overdue.
Building a second crossing to Douglas Island is probably part of the long- term access equation. Narrowing the existing bridge lanes is a whacko fix that should be ditched in favor of a common sense solution that will work for all of us.
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