Future motorists on Egan Drive might find overpasses at the McNugget intersection and Mendenhall Loop Road, easier turns into Fred Meyer and the Juneau Airport, and Riverside Drive extended south.
These ideas and others are now under review by the state Department of Transportation, its consultants and a local citizens advisory panel. The group is looking at ways to improve the West Egan corridor between Industrial Boulevard and Yandukin Drive.
Planners want to increase safety, limit travel delays, improve access to the Juneau Airport, and provide better connections for pedestrians and bicyclists. They also are trying to make short and long trips on Egan easier, said Lee Rodegerdts, project manager with Kittleson and Associates.
"We want to increase efficiency for local trips across Egan and traffic on Egan through the intersections," he said.
Planners presented their latest drawings to Juneau Assembly members and the citizen advisory committee recently. They'll review the designs over the next few months and are planning a public meeting in February. Eventually, one preferred alternative will be forwarded for a formal environmental review.
The DOT now has four alternatives. Three of them include some frontage roads and overpasses at major Egan Drive intersections. Under the scenarios, Egan Drive would bridge over Riverside, Mendenhall Loop, Yandukin, and Glacier Highway at the McNugget intersection.
Along with the West Egan corridor, the state Department of Transportation is planning several other large projects in Juneau. They include:
10th and Egan: The state is scheduled to ask the Juneau Planning Commission for support for its plans at a meeting Dec. 10. The project would add a reversible third lane on the Douglas Bridge and a roundabout on the Douglas side.
Sunny Point: After receiving support from the Juneau Planning Commission in September, the DOT is working on an environmental review. The project calls for an underpass at the Egan Drive-Sunny Point intersection.
Glacier Highway-Auke Bay: A citizens advisory committee met about two weeks ago to discuss traffic improvements in the area. The project deals with Glacier Highway from Fritz Cove Road to the ferry terminal.
Second crossing: The state is preparing to issue a request for proposals next month to study a second crossing over Gastineau Channel.
The fourth scenario doesn't include overpasses and keeps traffic signals at the intersections. Instead, to accommodate more traffic, Egan would increase from four to six lanes. At the Mendenhall Loop-Egan intersection, drivers would see nine lanes of traffic, DOT project manager Chris Morrow said.
All four options would extend Riverside Drive across Egan to the south. Volunteers and students who tracked traffic in the area for the DOT last summer found that a high percentage of drivers use Egan for short trips, Morrow said.
"It looks like a lot of people want to get across Egan in both directions. Having that extension would take traffic off Egan from Loop to Vintage," he said. "Our focus is on Egan Drive, but this seems to be a way to help get people and cars off Egan Drive. It helps increase capacity."
One of the concerns for Juneau residents who responded to a mail-in survey this summer was the Yandukin-Egan Drive intersection at Fred Meyer, Morrow said. Proposals would allow left turns from Fred Meyer onto Egan and provide easier access to the airport on Yandukin. Trips from Fred Meyer to downtown now require a drive through Lemon Creek to Vanderbilt Hill Road.
"The Yandukin intersection was clearly the most pressing problem," he said. "At one point (the turns) were full-access, but it had to be closed off because of accidents. So this would restore them."
The proposals also would connect Lemon Spur Road behind Fred Meyer to Glacier Highway at the McNugget intersection or to James Boulevard. Neighborhood residents who attended a community advisory committee meeting Nov. 20 suggested the DOT avoid homes and wetlands in the area.
Two of the scenarios would remove the Industrial Boulevard-Egan intersection and divert traffic to Jensine Street. Another scenario would remove the Vintage Boulevard-Egan intersection, turning one end of Vintage into a cul-de-sac. Planners are concerned that tightly spaced interchanges and weaving cars will be a safety problem, Rodegerdts said.
But advisory committee members expressed concern about businesses in the area.
"You're creating a lot of nightmares trying to put big trucks on Jensine and hurting business," advisory committee member Tom Wehnes told planners.
Estimated construction costs for the changes range from $13 million to $73 million. The estimates don't include buying property and extending utilities. The improvements likely will be phased in, Morrow said.
"Along with a preferred solution, we will have a phased plan," he said. "There's no way to build everything at once."
More information about the project is available online at http://projects.ch2m.com/WEDCOR/. Comments can be sent to email@example.com.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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