A boat crosses under the bridge between the Juneau mainland and Douglas Island on Wednesday morning. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

A boat crosses under the bridge between the Juneau mainland and Douglas Island on Wednesday morning. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Feds award $16.5M toward design of second Juneau-Douglas crossing

City officials say funding will bring the project to full design.

Full funding for the design of a second crossing between Juneau and Douglas has been secured following a $16.5 million grant awarded to the project included in $2.26 billion of U.S. Department of Transportation funding announced Wednesday.

The funding, known as a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant, is in addition to $7 million earmarked for the project and included in the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package passed in December.

Combined with the $16.5 million award amount, the City and Borough of Juneau pledged a 5% local match, meaning an additional $866,000 will go to the project from city funds. Those funds have yet to be allocated.

There is currently one bridge connecting Juneau’s mainland with nearby Douglas Island where more than 5,500 residents live and commute, according to CBJ’s funding request. If developed, the crossing would open nearly 1,000 acres of city and tribal land that could go toward developing housing and improved port facilities, according to the funding requests.

However, since the idea for a second crossing began to be studied in the early 1980s many residents have been divided on the topic, with opposition to the development citing environmental and fiscal impacts.

According to Katie Koester, director of CBJ Engineering and Public Works, the two multimillion-dollar funding awards will take the project to full design — but they don’t address the actual cost of the project’s construction.

That cost is still unknown and likely won’t be clear for a while, as the project is currently vetting five alternative routes outlined as potential crossing options in the Planning and Environmental Linkages study currently underway.

“Not only is there the process of being able to find construction funding, but moving through those alternatives will probably be something that happens over the course of the next year probably,” she said.

The five options are at the Mendenhall Peninsula, Sunny Point Area, Vanderbilt, Twin Lakes and Salmon Creek. Meetings to hone in on those options and gain public input on preference will take place throughout this summer.

A recent meeting held in May indicated the Salmon Creek area crossing as the preference route to the residents who attended and provided feedback.

According to a 2018 survey by the McDowell Group, formerly McKinley Research Group, over three-quarters of surveyed Juneau residents supported a second crossing between Juneau and Douglas, with 37% strongly supporting the idea. A total of 14% of respondents said they opposed the idea with 4% strongly opposed.

Koester said though the project is far from the finish line, the granting of federal funding is an indication that “we have a viable project” and will allow for the project to continue to take advantage of potential funding opportunities, such as securing funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The community has been working on this project for the last 40 years — so there has been a lot of thought and effort put into it — but the community really is going to have to stay engaged in the project to bring it through,” she said. “This project, even though there’s been great momentum, it is not a done deal.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807.

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