Mendenhall Valley residents could find their morning commutes getting better

Plan in place to lighten traffic at Riverside and Stephen Richards drives

The daily traffic snarls at Riverside and Stephen Richards drives could soon be a thing of the past.

The four-way stop at the Mendenhall Valley intersection is the starting point for long lines of motorists during workday mornings and evenings, but it’s hoped a proposed four-way traffic signal will cut down on traffic jams.

“Lines of cars sometimes stretch up to a quarter mile away from the intersection,” said Aurah Landau, public information officer for Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Southcoast Region, in a phone interview. “It can take a while to get through there. The idling cars also increase emissions and reduce local air quality.”

A new four-way traffic signal is planned for the Stephen Richards and Riverside drives intersection and construction could start in 2020. (Courtesy Photo | Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities)

A new four-way traffic signal is planned for the Stephen Richards and Riverside drives intersection and construction could start in 2020. (Courtesy Photo | Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities)

There was an open house detailing the project, which is expected to start in early 2020, Thursday evening at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library.

The project will include new signs, striping and lighting, relocation of utilities and utility poles, increasing Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, and pavement reconstruction as needed, according to the project’s fact sheet.

The work is expected to cost about $1.3 million, Landau said. Most of that cost — 91 percent — will come from a federal fund for decreasing traffic congestion. The remaining 9 percent will come from the City and Borough of Juneau.

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Riverside and Stephen Richards are CBJ roads, but the state DOT&PF is managing construction for the project, Landau said, and the project will go before the CBJ planning commission at some point.

The plan for a four-way traffic light, instead of the current stops at each point of the intersection, is the result of working closely with the CBJ, Landau said.

Information gathered during a summer public meeting was also taken into account when creating the proposed plan.

Landau said at that time versions of roundabouts and traffic signals were being considered, but ultimately a four-way traffic signal offered the best combination of safety, ability to proceed through the intersection and minimized impact on private property.

Cecilia Larson, a retired CBJ employee who lives near the intersection, is mostly a fan of the plan and is especially glad it isn’t a roundabout.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Larson said. “I think a light will solve the problem of at least getting people through during the busy times.”

Further public comment is still being accepted through Feb. 19 and contacts can be found online at: dot.alaska.gov/sereg/projects/jnu_riverside_stephen_richards/contact.shtml

“We’re trying to hone in on if there is anything else we need to know,” Landau said.

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Landau said the project will be coordinated with other roadwork in the area to ensure people can still drive to and from the Valley without too much trouble.

The project will likely be completed within two months, Landau said. While there isn’t yet a traffic control plan, she said traffic control will not be necessary for the entirety of it.

Once the project is done, Landau said the four-way light will be able to join a network of lights that includes those located at Riverside and Egan drives and Mendenhall Loop Road and Egan Drive, which Landau said could help improve traffic flow, too.


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


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