Traffic mitigation project rolling forward

Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 15:37
  • People look at a map of proposed intersection upgrades near where the Old Glenn Highway meets Eagle River Road during a meeting on the Eagle River Traffic Mitigation Phase I project on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 at the Eagle River Town Center. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Engineer Aaron Christie gives a presentation during a meeting on the Eagle River Traffic Mitigation Phase I project on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 at the Eagle River Town Center. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • A map of proposed intersection upgrades near where the Old Glenn Highway meets Eagle River Road on display during a meeting on the Eagle River Traffic Mitigation Phase I project on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 at the Eagle River Town Center. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Plans to improve Eagle River’s most notorious intersection continue to creep forward, with project leaders holding their seventh public meeting on the Eagle River Traffic Mitigation project Monday, Oct. 30 in Eagle River.

“We’re here to tell you where we’re at,” said Aaron Christie, a project engineer with Dowl.

About two dozen people wandered around the meeting room at the Eagle River Town Center, where the project team — led by representatives from Brooks & Associates and the Municipality of Anchorage — set up large mock-ups of the project, which aims to improve traffic flow in the area around the intersection of Eagle River Road and the Old Glenn Highway. The team brought Sharpie markers with which people could write questions, concerns or suggest proposed alternatives to the team’s current plans on large posters of the project design.

“I’d encourage you to walk around and mark these up,” Christie said during a formal half-hour presentation about the project.

Christie explained that the project is part of a much larger plan to enhance traffic flow in downtown Eagle River by extending Business Boulevard through to the intersection. However, that project is currently unfunded and would be far larger in scope that the work that’s currently being proposed.

“There is no money identified at this point,” for the Business Boulevard expansion, Christie said.

However, there is money — about $8.5 million in state grants have been allocated for Phase 1 — to improve the tricky intersection, which combines traffic exiting the Glenn Highway with traffic from Eagle River Road and the Old Glenn Highway at a tough-to-negotiate three-way choke point. The area is the scene of frequent fender-benders, with traffic often forced to awkwardly switch lanes in a confined space.

“That can result in some interesting maneuvers,” Christie said.

Although engineers cannot completely fix the intersection with the current project, Christie said some changes will make a notable difference — primarily the addition of a “hook ramp” for traffic exiting the Glenn Highway and turning south (right) onto Eagle River Road. The other big change motorists will notice is the possible addition of a “right-in, right-out” lane that’s being proposed for Cross Drive. Such a change would reduce the chances of collisions at the intersection, which serves businesses located in the tight warren of residential streets and business parking lots located between the Old Glenn and Business Boulevard.

Fixing those streets — including Brooks Loop and Centerfield Drive — is part of the larger project, although other minor changes are being discussed, including a possible connection from Brooks to Centerfield and a possible conversion of Brook to two-way traffic.

However, none of the project is final, which is why the team continues to hold public meetings to gauge locals’ feelings about the plan.

“We want to make sure something useful is built,” Christie said.

Other needed fixes in the area include an overhaul of the highway off-ramp, but the state has no current plans in the works for such an effort.

The final Phase 1 project design will likely be completed by next summer, he said, with construction likely to begin a few months after that.

“We’re looking at late 2018 or early 2019 for construction,” he said.

There’s still time to make public comments on the project, information about which can be found online at brooks-alaska.com/ERTrafficMitigation.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified the engineering firm Christie works for by using a version of the company’s name it no longer uses.

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