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City hopes to boost parking with garage

Officials want work on new structure to begin this spring

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Finding a quick parking spot downtown could become a lot easier with a new city garage slated for downtown.

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The city is hoping to begin site work this spring on the first phase of a new parking garage and transit center at the corner of Egan Drive and Main Street, said Engineering Department Deputy Director Rorie Watt.

"Parking is always a big issue," he said. "I think generally what we have is a lack of good parking."

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To view a video about the new parking garage visit www.juneauempire.com and look for "Latest videos."

The $10 million-plus parking garage and transit center is still in the planning stages and must be approved by the Juneau Assembly before any construction can begin. Voters approved $7.7 million for the project during the 2005 city election by passing a temporary sales tax extension, which will fund part of the garage.

One of the clear goals for the project is to get long-term parking off the streets of downtown so parking for businesses is more readily available, Watt said.

"I think people shy away from coming downtown because they perceive they are not going to find good parking near where they want to go," he said.

The city is considering multiple design concepts, including one that resembles the architecture of the Alaska Capitol and one with a contemporary storefront façade. Watt said the design eventually presented to the Assembly will likely be some combination of the different designs.

The plan is to build a structure with roughly 300 parking spaces during the first phase, Watt said. The design would be compatible with a second phase of construction to expand the garage in the future, if deemed necessary.

Capital City Transit Superintendent John Kern said the city is working on a $5 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to help fund the transit facility component of the project. The plan is to have a station that includes a break room for the bus drivers, covered areas for passengers, facilities for bicycles and potentially a small police station.

"It's going to be a focal point for transit downtown," he said.

The center will provide more protection for bus passengers from the weather, which could result in increased bus use from downtown, Kern said. It also would have places for people to park cars or bikes to commute to other areas of the community.

"In a way it's a facility where people can change their transport from one mode to another," Kern said.

Watt said there are still a lot of details that need to be figured out before construction begins, from architectural issues to excavation of rock from Telephone Hill. The management of the garage is still undecided, as is the potential parking fees.

Web links:

To comment on the parking project, visit the Web at: www.juneau.lib.ak.us/engineering/ParkingGarageTransitCenter/ParkingGarageTransitCenter.php.

"What's happening with this project is we're slowly working on a lot of the details and bringing them forward."

City planners don't know when the first phase of the project would be completed.

Kern said the city is looking for community feedback on the project as it moves forward. A public comment form can be found on the city's Web site.

"That's certainly what we're interested in right now, is public review and public comment on the project," he said.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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