Juneau officials are attempting to make progress on a possible second crossing to Douglas Island, which has been studied since the early 1980s without much action, by partnering with the state in a process that began publicly Wednesday with the first of three public meetings providing information and seeking input.
The Zoom virtual open house focusing on a possible transportation corridor connecting Juneau with the north end of Douglas Island is the first step in a process that will include environmental review and proposed crossing alternatives, said Marie Heidemann, Juneau Field Office Planning Chief for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, which is taking the lead role in what’s officially titled the Juneau Douglas North Crossing PEL Study.
“As the title suggested this is a more robust process than we at times have been able to be engaged with,” she said.
But any action won’t be a speedy process since the other open houses are set for undetermined dates in the fall 2022 and spring of 2023. A common question among locals interested in the crossing is why building it — or a decision not to — isn’t already happening, and how those past efforts will affect the new process.
“A lot of people know this project has been studied many times over the years and want to know how that prior work plays into what we’re doing today,” said Steve Noble, practice lead for the transportation sector of DOWL, a planning, surveying and engineering company contracted as a partner in the project. “The answer to that is fairly simple. We’re starting a whole new process…(but) the work that was done previously still has value and helps inform our process.”
The city’s partnership with DOT&PF will use what’s known as the Planning and Environmental Linkages process “to identify and evaluate a purpose and need for connecting Juneau with Douglas Island.”
“Douglas Island Bridge accommodates over 14,000 vehicles per day,” a summary of the partnership notes. “Delay is apparent during morning and evening peak periods also impacting intersection operations on either side of the bridge. When road closures are needed for maintenance or in an emergency, there are limited alternative accesses available between Douglas Island and Juneau. Active transportation facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists are only provided on one side of the bridge.”
Previous studies also highlighted the potential for residential, commercial, industrial and port development on west Douglas Island as a reason for a second crossing.
A map of the study area shows it will span a triangle from the existing bridge downtown to Auke Bay to west of the North Douglas Launch Ramp. According to the Zoom presentation, the area was chosen to pick areas where previous areas identified possible crossings.
According to an announcement by the city, the collaborative process will assess:
Purpose and need for a north crossing between Juneau and Douglas Island.
Range of alternative locations for a north crossing.
Transportation improvements needed to support a north crossing on Douglas Island and mainland Juneau.
Forecast population and traffic growth through 2045.
Impacts to environmental resources, particularly recreational areas.
An initial presentation focusing on engineering, environmental and other process aspects of the partnership frustrated a Zoom audience member who identified himself as John (many others during the meeting only gave their first names) who said past studies have looked at many possible crossing locations over the years already and feels the human element was missing from the presentation.
“I want to know what the impacts are for we the people,” he said. “I don’t hear any conversion about we the people.”
A 2018 survey by the McDowell Group — now known as McKinley Research Group — showed more than three-quarters of surveyed residents support a North Douglas crossing, with 37% strongly supporting the idea. A total of 14% of respondents said they opposed the idea with 4% strongly opposed.
Information about the project and options for providing comments are available at www.jdnorthcrossing.com.
• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at email@example.com.