A couple walks along the West Douglas Pioneer Road on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. The city has asked for permission to extend the road to Middle Creek. The road is now open to non-motorized traffic. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

West Douglas pioneer road gets another mile

A new 2.4-mile gravel road on the west side of Douglas Island is just about complete, but the City and Borough is looking for some bonus distance after bids for its construction were cheaper than expected.

“Since the winning bid for the project was so competitive there is enough unexpended money in the CIP to extend the road another mile,” wrote Greg Chaney, the CBJ’s lands and resources manager, in a memo dated Aug. 22.

“Our low bid price came under estimate, and therefore with the remaining funds already allocated for construction, we think we can get another 6,000 feet,” said project manager Alan Steffert by phone on Monday.

“It makes sense to use it on this project, and the next 6,000 feet is easy construction. We can do it in the time allotted, and we have money available, so why not?” he added.

The gravel road is officially known as the “West Douglas Pioneer Road.” It’s part of a decades-old effort by the CBJ to open the far side of Douglas Island to development. A 1997 plan drafted by the city and still in effect calls for the paved extension of North Douglas Highway to a point that, on the Juneau-facing side of the island, is equivalent to downtown Douglas.

The gravel road built to date — and the 6,000-foot extension — are well short of that but are intended to be a first step toward that goal. The pioneer road, which had its groundbreaking earlier this year, would provide access for construction and survey crews developing the far side of Douglas.

Steffert and Chaney each said by phone that the city needs to get additional permits and Assembly approval before the pioneer road can be lengthened by 6,000 feet. If those arrive on schedule, each man said work could resume in the fall and wrap up in early spring 2018.

The pioneer road would then end at Middle Creek, a 30-foot-wide watercourse on the far side of Douglas.

Assemblywoman Debbie White offered some support for the extension idea on Monday afternoon.

“I think it’s been a long time coming to get this far, and I don’t want to lose the momentum,” she said by phone. “We know that we need the available land, and anything we can do to encourage development is going to diversify our economy.”

White is chairwoman of the Assembly’s lands committee, which was scheduled to meet Monday evening to consider access rules for the pioneer road.

Given that the pioneer road lacks guardrails or protection for motor vehicles, city staff were recommending that the road be open to hikers and bicyclists, but no travelers using a motor.


Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


The West Douglas Pioneer Road on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. The city has asked for permission to extend the road to Middle Creek. The road is now open to non-motorized traffic. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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