The Douglas Bridge on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The Douglas Bridge on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Douglas repaving project in the works

Construction scheduled to start in 2021

Repaving projects in the shade can be tricky.

David Pyeatt, project manager for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ upcoming repaving project on Douglas, said conditions need to be just right to lay down new asphalt.

“The weather outside needs to be dry and it needs to be a certain heat, and that doesn’t happen here very often,” Pyeatt said. “We’re always waiting for the right day for the sun so we can do asphalt.”

Weather conditions will likely be the biggest hurdle for the department when the repaving project gets started, likely in 2021. The two-phase endeavor will repave the Douglas Bridge, the roundabout and Douglas Highway (Third Street) all the way south until it reaches St. Ann’s Avenue.

A map shows the scope of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ upcoming repaving project in Douglas. (Courtesy photo | Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

A map shows the scope of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ upcoming repaving project in Douglas. (Courtesy photo | Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

In addition to repaving, the department will rebuild pedestrian ramps, driveways and sidewalks along Third Street to be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. The project will repair some structural retaining walls around the street, replace damaged handrails and clear out culverts to improve drainage.

DOT&PF held an open house Wednesday evening at the Douglas Public Library to give community members an overview of the project and answer their questions. Robert Welton, who often bikes down Third Street, through the roundabout and across the bridge, said his main concern was improving drainage along the street. He said he spends most of his rides during the winter dodging ice floes, and hopes the improvements make for a better ride.

Juneau and Douglas residents discuss a plan to repave streets in Douglas during an open house on Wednesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Juneau and Douglas residents discuss a plan to repave streets in Douglas during an open house on Wednesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

According to signage at the open house, the project has been in the works since 2016. The environmental documents and preliminary design are now done, and the department is now moving into the public involvement and final design stage.

Those who want to stay up to date with the project can go to www.dot.alaska.gov/sereg/projects/douglashwy/. To weigh in on the project, people can email the project team at DouglasHwy@dowl.com or call Pyeatt at 465-4490.

The construction order and timeline have yet to be set in stone, DOT&PF spokesperson Aurah Landau said Wednesday. The plan now is to have the first phase include the bridge, roundabout and the southernmost part of Third Street (from Creek Street to St. Ann’s Avenue). The second phase is to repave the stretch of Third Street from Cordova Street to Creek Street. Landau said those two phases could switch orders, though, depending on what the final design turns out to be.

The bridge doesn’t need any structural repairs, Landau said, and there won’t be any changes to the path of the roundabout or street. Chris Schelb, the environmental impact analyst for the Southcoast Region of DOT&PF, said a “tremendous amount of thought” went into this, despite there only being surface changes.

Schelb said they’ve consulted with archaeological and historical records to ensure that none of the graves or historic artifacts near the road will be disturbed. In 2012, the City and Borough of Juneau inadvertently unearthed Tlingit graves when doing a renovation project at Gastineau Elementary School (which now also carries the Tlingit name Sayéik).

The amount of research done was not lost on the few dozen attendees Wednesday evening. Robert Sewell, president of the Douglas Island Neighborhood Association, had a long discussion with Pyeatt about the ins and outs of the project and came away fairly pleased.

It’s a far cry from Sewell’s reaction in 2017 when he led a community meeting with Department of Corrections officials about the possibility of the Pretrial Enforcement Division having its office in Douglas. At the time, Sewell was unhappy that there had been so little public involvement. On Wednesday, he was in a much better mood.

“These guys are doing it right in terms of introducing it to the public. This is a nice planning process, it’s well in advance, they even have carrots,” Sewell joked, gesturing to the snack table. “The point is, some other parts of state government, other public entities, could benefit from something like this.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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