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Planners say city garage blasting will be disruptive

Planning commission OKs new set of traffic regulations

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Juneau Planning Commission heard on Tuesday night from planners working on the design of a city parking garage on Main and Egan streets that blasting from the project will likely be disruptive to nearby businesses and residents.

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The commission also approved a new set of traffic regulations that allow for more traffic on city streets in an effort to encourage more dense development.

The 300-car parking garage was approved by voters in a 2005 ballot initiative. The project, slated to cost between $11 million and $16 million, will be funded in part by the 2005 ballot initiative, with the majority of the funding being paid by the Federal Transit Authority. Additional funds for the project come from a fee-in-lieu-of-parking program.

About 20,000 cubic yards of rock will have to be removed from the hill at the intersection to make room for the garage, at a cost of $800,000. The work would take about two months, said Rorie Watt, deputy director of the Engineering Department.

Many contractors prefer to work six days a week, 10 hours a day, he said.

"I don't know what would be more preferable to the community, to get it over with or to have some peace and quiet on the weekends. We are open to suggestions," Watt said, adding that work would ideally begin in spring.

Two members of the public testified they were concerned about the project. Dixie Hood said the project is already far along without much public feedback, and that the project appears to consume valuable real estate. She said the blasting would drive people "crazy" and the truck traffic would make things "miserable."

Watt and planner Ben Lyman said they had gone above and beyond what is legally required for such a project in terms of public outreach. Public meetings and planning commission updates were provided in order to avoid a repeat of the controversies that had surrounded the Marine Park parking garage.

Maureen Conerton said the project appears to have gone beyond the scope of what voters approved in 2005.

"I'm just thinking it's going to be a big shock as soon as they realize what this project is going to be about," Conerton said.

A land-use permit for the project must eventually be approved by the planning commission, the only requirement for such a project, Lyman said.

As far as the change in traffic regulations, the commission acted on the recommendation of planner Tim Maguire and transportation consultant Rick Purves.

Traffic is graded on a scale from "A" to "F" and the new regulations reduced the allowable rating on Juneau streets from "C" to "D." The move has implications for large developments or business expansions, which are often required to address any potential affects on traffic.

Maguire said the rule change encourages more dense development in ideal locations such as the Mendenhall Valley, as opposed to more remote locations that may not have improvements like road maintenance and developed sewage lines.

"If you have a real high standard for traffic, you might prevent development in more ideal places, and might push it to more remote places. There's a tradeoff," Maguire said.



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