Downtown traffic to be studied

City to spend $123,000 to study pedestrian, vehicular movement

Posted: Friday, December 26, 2008

Engineers will be systematically counting and tracking vehicle and pedestrian traffic around the cruise ship docks downtown this summer as part of a study intended to help policy-makers manage traffic and reduce congestion.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The $123,000 study, which the Juneau Assembly approved last week, is intended to help both the tourist industry and locals, Port Director John Stone said.

"Reduced congestion helps everybody in town," he said.

The benefits may go both ways, but the cruise ship passengers alone are bearing the cost. The study will be paid for through the city's marine passenger fee, which charges $5 per passenger. About 1 million people a year come to Juneau on cruise ships.

Stone said it's been 10 to 15 years since these traffic patterns were examined in depth - and the ships have gotten bigger since. He added that this may be the first time ever that actual head counts and vehicle counts were collected.

The congested areas being studied run along Marine Way and South Franklin Street.

"That's the area people complain most about, pedestrians and vehicles. They work against each other," Stone said.

Visitor surveys the Juneau Convention & Visitors Bureau commissioned address some of the complaints. In 2005, 4 percent of survey respondents identified "crowding/too many tourists" as their least enjoyable experience in Juneau. It was the fourth most common choice, behind "nothing," "weather" and "not enough time."

When asked to rate the importance of certain improvements, 78 percent favored a continuous walkway along the waterfront and 40 percent favored better directional signs.

After the latest data is collected, the consultants will go through options for improving the flow of people and vehicles. Stone said that could mean changes in regulations and practices in the loading zones - "stuff that doesn't necessarily cost any money" - or infrastructure improvements.

For example, Stone said a parking lot in a loading zone near the Mount Roberts Tramway is due for resurfacing. Depending on the study's suggestions, it may be resurfaced as is, or reconfigured in a more efficient layout.

The contract is going to PND Engineers. Calls to the firm's Juneau office were referred to engineer Dick Somerville, who could not be reached for comment.

The city's Docks and Harbors Board already approved the contract Dec. 4, though contracts in excess of $100,000 must go before the Assembly for final approval.

This study is unrelated to the navigation study that examined long-term options for expanding and improving downtown cruise ship docks released earlier this month.

Other marine passenger fee earmarks in the current budget year include $1.5 million for the new downtown parking garage and transit center, $924,000 for cruise ship berth improvements, $500,000 for Douglas Harbor parking and float maintenance, $250,000 for the Statter Harbor boat ramp facility and $170,000 to buy open space on the waterfront.

• Contact reporter Jeremy Hsieh at 523-2258 or e-mail

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