A lot needs to happen before work is done at the site of some of Juneau’s most high-profile vehicle crashes.
A presentation from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities at Wednesday’s City and Borough of Juneau Public Works and Facilities Committee meeting emphasized how much still needs to be determined and decided regarding the future Egan and Yandukin drives, which is commonly called the “Fred Meyer intersection.”
“Everything is still an option at this point,” Jim Brown, engineering manager for DOT, said after the meeting. “We’re still gathering information to ascertain what the needs are. All ideas are still on the table.”
He said some needs already identified by DOT include increasing gaps in traffic, reducing turn lane conflicts, economy and the speed zone for Egan Drive near the intersection.
“Right now, the speed limit through that area is 55 mph, the average person is driving 62,” Brown said during the meeting.
Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale said during the meeting many of the wrecks that occur at the intersection involve vehicles traveling at high speeds.
Past concepts shared by DOT to improve the intersection include: signalized Yandukin Drive Intersection at Fred Meyer, a one-way extension of Lemon Spur to signal at Egan Drive and Glacier Highway, a two-way extension of Lemon Spur to a four-leg signal at Egan Drive and Glacier Highway, a separated grade interchange at Egan Drive and Yandukin Drive/Fred Meyer.
“There should be more to come,” Brown said.
Some preliminary short-term changes being considered as well.
“Some of them could be as simple as signage, or offsetting turn lanes or traffic cones or concrete islands,” Brown said.
He emphasized studies would still need to be done on the alternatives, and there is still a lot of work and multiple public meetings expected between now and the fourth quarter of this year when recommendations are expected.
Once those recommendations are made, DOT design group chief Chris Goins said funding for the project will have a lot to do with when actual work happens at the intersection.
“There’s no construction funding at this time,” Goins said. “This is really our time as a community, as a DOT to put our best foot forward in the funding process and come with a solution that the community can get behind, so that we can seek funding.”
Something that could add difficulty to making the case for funding the project is that it will be competing against other DOT projects for money, and surface-level figures do not show the intersection as being especially dangerous.
During Goins’ and Brown’s presentation, they provided statistics from a 2013 study — Brown said DOT is working to update the figures — that found the Fred Meyer intersection saw the eighth most crashes in Juneau.
Assembly member Maria Gladzsiszewski said she still perceives it as being the most dangerous intersection in Juneau. She asked what intersection does see the most crashes, and why the Fred Meyer intersection is receiving so much attention if it’s No. 8.
Brown said the intersection that’s the site of the most wrecks is Mendenhall Loop Road and Egan Drive.
Goins said the high visibility of the Fred Meyer intersection and lack of routes around it are part of why it gets so much public attention from the public and DOT.
“People will sit there for hours sometimes when these accidents occur, and that’s all they have to think about,” Goins said.
Another statistic from the report indicated that more than half of crashes at the intersection happen in November, December and January.
Goins underscored that Juneau is currently in the midst of the risky time of decreased light and slick roads and encouraged people to dive safely.
“Take your time and don’t misjudge a gap,” Goins said. “It’s key, it’s important for you safety.”
By the numbers
Statistics come from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
8 The Egan and Yandukin drives intersection has the eighth highest total for crashes in Juneau.
0 There have been 0 facilities at the intersection.
46 Nearly half of the crashes at the intersection involve vehicles making left turns.
> 50 More than half, 50%, of crashes at the intersection occur in November, December and January.