City ponders roundabout as cure to traffic ills

Posted: Friday, December 01, 2000

The city is looking at a $500,000 roundabout to cure some of the traffic ills that continue to plague the Marine Way and parking garage intersection downtown. City staff put its proposal for the teardrop-shaped traffic island to Juneau Assembly Public Works Committee members at a Wednesday meeting.

The roundabout is designed to allow vehicles exiting the garage to ease into traffic on Marine Way and to let buses leaving the Alaska Steamship dock area turn around without having to drive all the way to the ferry terminal parking lot on South Franklin Street, said assembly member Ken Koelsch, chairman of the Public Works Committee. Koelsch is also head of the Transportation Steering Committee, tasked with developing an areawide transportation plan for Juneau for the next 20 years.

The average daily traffic through the intersection in 1999 was 5,600 vehicles, said Rorie Watt, the city's chief projects engineer.

"The traffic going up or down Marine Way isn't too bad," Watt said. "But vehicles exiting the garage sometimes have to wait 10 to 15 minutes before they can make a left turn. The librarians going anywhere routinely allow for an extra 15 minutes."

The project also will improve pedestrian crossings, Watt said.

"What we have now is pedestrians crossing freely and vehicles having to stop in all sorts of places as a result," he said.

The project calls for two 20-foot-wide pedestrian crossings one north and one south of the garage with each a different color and texture from the surrounding pavement. And there has been discussion about directional signage for visitors.

"Pedestrians coming up South Franklin and reaching the 'Y' can get confused about where they want to go," Watt said. "The same for people coming off the wharf steps."

If the city were to "move aggressively," he said, the project could be completed next spring.

Although the street is a state Department of Transportation responsibility, how to pay for the project hasn't been decided because the project may not have a high enough priority for DOT funding, Watt said.

The assembly already has tapped cruise ship passenger fee proceeds for $50,000 to fund the project's design.

"We haven't identified the source of the rest of the funding yet," Koelsch said. "But there's a very good chance we can get it from the passenger fee, since (the project) directly serves the tourist area."

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