Residents weigh in on second crossing

Study found 63 percent of 300 Juneau households support DOT project

Posted: Thursday, November 06, 2003

Some Juneau and Douglas residents feel a second bridge to Douglas Island is necessary to improve access to emergency services, while others are concerned with the effects of another crossing on the environment and the quality of life on North Douglas.

Representatives from the city and the state Department of Transportation documented those thoughts and others Wednesday during two public scoping sessions on the second-crossing project.

The project is in an early planning stage, said DOT Project Manager Michael Lukshin.

"We want to listen to comments and concerns so we can incorporate those thoughts and ideas as we move forward in the project. It is really important to us that we hear from as many people as possible," Lukshin said.

North Douglas resident Bonnie Gruening said she feels the bridge is necessary for safety reasons, such as access to Bartlett Regional Hospital.

"If something happens to the existing bridge, what happens to all the people who live on Douglas Island?" Gruening said. "I do understand how people don't want their lifestyles to be impacted, but I think it's very important."

Art Peterson, who has lived on North Douglas for 37 years, said safety is important, but it must be weighed against other concerns, such as the effects of economic development on residents' quality of life.

"A positive aspect for us is that we could nip over to the airport in less time, but do we want to sacrifice a distinctly rural way of life out there?" Peterson said.

A study by the McDowell Group, a Juneau-based research firm, of about 300 households found that 63 percent support the project, while 16 percent oppose it. Of the supporters, 45 percent said a bridge is necessary to ease traffic on the Douglas Bridge and improve access to the mainland. Most opponents said the second crossing was not needed. About 13 percent of opponents were concerned about impact to the Mendenhall Wetlands.

Project developers have not defined the bridge's location yet.

The project study area includes about nine miles of Gastineau Channel from the Salmon Creek area to the Mendenhall Peninsula. On the Juneau side developers are looking at current intersections as possible terminuses, including the intersection of Egan Drive and Vanderbilt Hill Road, Sunny Point near the old Kmart, and Yandukin Drive near Fred Meyer. Other possibilities include Industrial Boulevard, Engineer's Cutoff Road or Fritz Cove Road.

So far only one location on Douglas Island has been discussed: Fish Creek Road leading up to Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Developers also are considering different types of crossings, said Paul Bott of HDR Inc., the company contracted to do the environmental impact statement. Possibilities include a fixed bridge like the current Douglas Bridge, a floating bridge, a moving bridge that could open to accommodate tall boats, and a covered tunnel that could go under the airport, Bott said.

The proposed bridge would be a half-mile to a mile-and-a-half long, and is estimated to cost about $60 million, but a tunnel would be significantly more expensive.

Consultant Jamie Damon said the results of the scoping sessions will be reported in February.

The draft EIS is scheduled for completion in spring of 2005, with public hearings tentatively scheduled for the following summer. Construction of the bridge itself probably won't start until at least 2010.

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