Planners tackle Alaska's worst traffic bottleneck

Posted: Sunday, November 01, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Road planners say they're looking at as many alternatives as possible as they try to solve the worst traffic bottleneck in Alaska - a section of Anchorage where two highways converge and turn into roads dotted with stoplights.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that 5 percent of all the crashes in Alaska occur in the corridor where the Glenn and Seward highways link up.

Among the ideas are freeways through Russian Jack Springs Park or along the west end of Merrill Field and through the Rogers Park Neighborhood. Alternatives involving mass transit are also under consideration.

"We're examining everything," said Jim Childers, project manager with the state Department of Transportation. He says the planners don't want critics to be able to come back later complaining that potential solutions weren't looked at.

The community council in the neighborhood that would be affected most by what's considered the obvious solution has conditionally endorsed a freeway connection that's sunken in places to allow neighborhood streets to cross and developments atop such as parks or commercial buildings.

The freeway would support the kind of development the area wants, said Sharon Chamard, president of the Fairview Community Council.

Fairview is already split by two high-speed, one-way roads.

Councils and residents in other areas have expressed strong opposition to some of the proposed alternatives, but one elected official said the process is set up to consider ideas that have no hope.

"These folks aren't necessarily nuts. They're just messing with you," said State Rep. Les Gara of Anchorage in a newsletter to constituents. "The National Environmental Policy Act probably requires them to pretend they are considering completely insane highway route alternatives through Anchorage that, from the mail I'm receiving, have scared the bejesus out of you."

Childers' informed guess is that building a connecting freeway would cost about $700 million. A study will address how to finance it.

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