Work begins on Auke Bay roundabout

The Auke Bay roundabout will include curb, gutter and sidewalks into Auke Bay and up Back Loop Road to University Way. Photo by Heather Bryant / KTOO.

Construction has begun on the roundabout at the intersection of Glacier Highway and Back Loop Road in Auke Bay.

The circular intersection is designed to slow traffic down in the busy area.

With six-foot sidewalks, State Transportation Department project manager Greg Lockwood says it will be a big improvement for pedestrians.

“There’ll be sidewalks down both sides of the road and then the roundabout itself is really safe for pedestrians because there are crosswalks on each leg,” Lockwood says. “And you only have to cross one direction of traffic at a time.”

Public opposition derailed a plan to buy and tear down DeHart’s market and gas station for the roundabout.  Instead the new roadway has been moved slightly uphill, saving the store and expanding the parking lot.  DeHart’s driveway closest to the store will be shut off.

The roundabout is only the second in Juneau.  Lockwood says it is similar to the intersection of Douglas Bridge and Douglas Highway, including a so-called apron for big trucks.  Many trucks pass through the Auke Bay area on the way to and from the Alaska Marine Highway terminal.

“The intent of the truck apron is if you get a big tractor-trailer combo that’s coming through and if they can’t make the corner there it’s OK if their back tires go up on there (the apron),” he says.

Project construction manager Dan Noziska says underground utilities and a retaining wall are the first work to be done.

When the traffic circle is fully built, it will be at a higher elevation than the current road and a safer street all the way to University Way, the north entrance to the University of Alaska Southeast.

“We are putting in curb and gutter and sidewalks, so it’s going to be more pedestrian friendly,” Noziska says. “You go up the Back Loop Road now and it’s just unpaved (shoulders), but there’ll be new curb and gutter and sidewalk going up to the university.”

Miller Construction has the $4.8 million state-funded contract for the highway improvements.   The schedule calls for the Auke Bay roundabout to be completed by the end of October.