Despite traffic jam that held up police response, contractor avoids fine

No one injured or fined as result of delay

When traffic to and from Douglas Island to slowed a crawl July 2, the jam also delayed Juneau Police Department’s response to a call.

A report of a disturbance came in at about 5:09 p.m., and an officer was not on scene for about 30 minutes, said Erann Kalwara, public safety manager for Juneau Police Department. A more typical response time would be about 20 minutes faster, she said.

“It’s very uncommon for us to take longer than 10 minutes,” Kalwara said.

Ultimately, the call, which reported people yelling and a dog barking, led to no charges, Kalwara said, and no one was hurt during the delay caused by the traffic impasse.

“There wasn’t anything terrible going on,” she said.

There were no calls to Capital City Fire/Rescue in the impacted area on July 2, said Michel Barte, administrative assistant for CCFR.

The traffic jam, which backed up vehicles across Douglas Bridge and onto Egan Drive on the Juneau side of the Gastineau Channel and to Sayéik Gastineau Community School on the Douglas side, was caused by a rush to get road work finished, said City and Borough of Juneau Public Works & Engineering Director Mike Vigue.

He said the goal was to open up the roadway to traffic for the Fourth of July weekend, but the good intentions backfired when paving took longer than expected and resulted in bringing traffic to a near standstill.

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The problem was worsened by the sunny afternoon right before a major holiday, a separate project on Egan Drive that affects traffic flow, and regular after-work traffic also meant more cars were on the roadways in between downtown Juneau and Douglas.

“It was just that combination of all those things,” Vigue said.

The contractor performing the work on the Douglas Highway, Admiralty Construction, was not fined or financially penalized because of the traffic jam, Vigue said.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Vigue said of contractors being punished.

Paul Beck, project manager for the City and Borough of Juneau, said a contractor would have to “really go off the deep end” to merit that sort of response.

“There were no violations, no fines, nothing,” Beck said.

Admiralty Construction did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Vigue said a meeting was held among the city, Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, Admiralty Construction and subcontractors in the aftermath of the traffic jam in an effort to make sure a similar delay didn’t happen again.

“It was a debriefing of why did we get here,” Vigue said. “We’ve been monitoring Admiralty and talking to them on a regular basis.”

Beck characterized the traffic jam as a learning experience that won’t be repeated as the project, which he anticipates will be completed within a month, comes to a close.

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“That July incident was a learning experience for us all,” Beck said.

Kalwara said JPD now has contact information that would allow the department to reach the contractor much more quickly to implement traffic control changes to decongest the roadway. If a report had come in of something that required an immediate response, Kalwara said she was confident JPD would have found a way to get to the location more quickly.

“The outcome ended up not being a significant issue,” she said. “If there would have been an emergency over there we would have communicated with them much faster. Maybe some outside of the box thinking, maybe calling someone we know lives in Douglas and having them walk over there.”

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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