The Assembly's decision on Sept. 8 to support controversial changes to the Douglas Bridge is a good example of the "throw money at it" approach to local problems. Don't think creatively, don't look at what other communities have done and don't think outside the box. Just spend money until the problem goes away.
There's too much congestion at the bridge around 8 a.m., when state, CBJ workers' and Juneau-Douglas High School hours all start simultaneously, and again around 4:30 p.m. So what can we do? We can spend millions of dollars on a design that will let more cars go over the bridge at the same time. Are there alternatives? You bet. I grew up in a town in which thousands of state workers converged on one office building complex every morning. They all had to arrive, park, take the elevators, go to lunch and leave. How to handle the congestion? They spread out the start of the work day at intervals between 8 and 8:30, so that only a small portion of the workforce started at 8, more at 8:10, more at 8:20 and more at 8:30. Same thing at the end of the day. Result: No massive traffic jams or elevator jams, because it's spread out over a longer period. It's simple, common sense and works.
Why not try it here? Several times over the last year we suggested to the Department of Transportation planners that they look at this alternative to reconstructing the bridge. Their response? "Not our job ... we build, we don't do that political stuff." We made the suggestion to the CBJ. The response? As far as we can tell, no one from the borough has ever talked to the state about spacing out city and state workers' arrival and departure times. Likewise, as far as we can tell neither DOTPF or the borough has talked to the school district about starting high school hours at a different time from state workers.
Would there be problems with these ideas? Sure. Nothing is simple. But some things are worth trying to make work, or at least looking at seriously. It's that or just throw more money at it.
Douglas K. Mertz