If you thought driving on Egan Drive near downtown was tough with all the tour buses and vans, just wait until next week. Starting Monday, a two-year construction project will begin on Egan Drive downtown, causing long delays en route to a wider, resurfaced road.
Aurah Landau, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said in a recent interview that this project — which aims to repave, widen and strengthen the foundation of Egan Drive from Main Street to 10th Street — has been in the works since at least 2013. As a result of the location and the difficulty of some of the renovations, this will likely prove to be a difficult endeavor.
“It’s a really complex project,” Landau said. “Not only is the engineering side challenging with the need to prevent failure of the retaining wall underneath Egan Drive, but it’s a really narrow corridor. There’s not a lot of wiggle room.”
Starting Monday, June 3, SECON contractors will be working on the stretch from Whittier Street to Willoughby Avenue, Landau said. The whole project, from Main Street to 10th Street, will be going on during summer months both this year and next year, Landau said. Work hours in general will be 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday, but work might also take place outside of those hours.
For at least this first phase, there are no official detours. Traffic in that block will be down to one lane each direction, Landau said. Drivers can prepare for this by leaving more time as they travel or finding alternate routes, but there are also online resources that can help keep people up-to-date.
The website www.alaskanavigator.org has a page specifically dedicated to the Egan Drive construction, which includes a map, a list of tips, a general overview of the project, a phone number to contact with questions and more. DOT&PF has created a site, www.egandriveproject.com, where people can get similar information and also sign up for email updates about the project.
“It’s challenging,” Landau said, “and we want to encourage people to sign up for project updates so they can see what’s happening with the project and be able to make choices that will work for them about moving through the area.”
DOT&PF awarded the bid, worth $14.3 million, to Juneau construction company SECON in March.
The project also will create bike lanes and widen sidewalks, and will include and improve pedestrian crossings in that stretch. Contractors will also work on the Gold Creek Bridge to include more asphalt and signage. They will also widen the road by installing a mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall along approximately 1,200 linear feet between West Eighth Street and Whittier Street.
Culverts and drainage areas will also be revamped, Landau said, which is important because the flow of water can wear down a road. If a culvert isn’t draining properly, that can damage a road or its foundations. This project aims to make sure all of the drainage areas along the stretch are working properly.
Most of the work this summer, though, will focus on the stretch between Whittier Street and Willoughby Avenue. The traffic signal and pedestrian crossing at Whittier Street will not be operational during the construction, but Landau said one side of the street will be open to pedestrians at all times (the side of the street depends on what work is being done).
Though construction will eventually reach the intersection by the Douglas Bridge, traffic on and off the bridge will not be affected, Landau said.
The stretch of road from Main Street to the bridge has been beat up for quite some time. DOT&PF employees have filled potholes from time to time on that route, but this project will make much more significant and permanent fixes to the road.
“When the project is done, we’ll have a nice new surface for the road, which is in pretty rough condition right now,” Landau said. “DOT has done quite a bit of work filling those potholes and trying to keep that surface drivable, but it’s rugged, it’s rough.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.