STIP comments due Wednesday

Public comment closes Wednesday on the Alaska Statewide Transportation Improvement Program that sets state priorities through 2015.

The STIP, as it’s called, is the list of state and local transportation projects eligible for partial or full federal funding.  The Federal Highway Administration requires all states put one together.

The state Transportation Department is now working on the eighth STIP amendment.

“There’s any number of  changes that happen in the evolution of these projects that cause the STIP to be revised. So those are the ones through sevens and you know now we’re at eight, which is probably going to be the last revision in this particular STIP,” says Al Clough, DOT Southeast Region director.

While this STIP will be the working list through 2015, Clough says the department will start another one next year.

“It’s driven by funding changes, it’s driven in response to priorities, in response to need, in response to how projects are advancing or not advancing,” he says.

Brotherhood Bridge across the Mendenhall River will be replaced, growing from two to four lanes.

The biggest project for Juneau is Brotherhood Bridge replacement. The project already has the required federal permits and will soon go out to bid.

The old two-lane structure will be replaced with four lanes, better walkways on both sides and an improved intersection at Industrial Boulevard and Brotherhood Bridge trail parking lot.

The 48-year old bridge was designed by Alaska Native leader Roy Peratrovich, Jr. for the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Native Brotherhood.  Special bronze medallions with the Alaska Native Brotherhood crest have been removed and preserved.

“The historic character of the current bridge with those nice big bronze medallions and stuff will be carried on in the new structure,” Clough says.

Brotherhood Bridge replacement costs are estimated at more than $25 million.

One Juneau project not in the STIP is the Auke Lake Wayside.  DOT and the city and borough have been working on a design, which is about 65 percent complete.  There are no construction funds and never have been, says DOT’s Jeremy Woodrow.

Wayside construction, he says, has always been considered “illustrative” in the STIP.

“Illustrative is defined in STIP terms as the project would be funded if eligible funding ever were to be made available. But at the current status, it’s not available for funding,” thanks to federal rules, which prioritize roads and safety measures.

“Things like the Auke Lake Wayside, while it may be significant, it may be important to the community, it’s not a necessity for moving goods and people safely through transportation corridors,” Woodrow says.

According to CBJ Parks Superintendent George Schaaf, the city has committed about $300,000 toward construction, estimated at $1.4 million.

The parking lot at the Auke Lake boat launch would be paved as part of the proposed Auke Lake Wayside, which is not considered for funding in the STIP.

“It was going to be a paved parking lot with some storm water management treatment system, permanent bathrooms, there’d be a picnic shelter and a day use area. There would be a floating dock for the boat ramp along with comes habitat improvements along the bank of the lake,” Schaaf says.

DOT’s Clough calls the STIP a living, breathing document that constantly changes. He says the department considers  comments from the general public, various interest groups, municipalities and other government agencies.

“We welcome those, because that’s what leads to the best projects ultimately being moved forward,” he says.

CBJ’s Schaaf says he hopes DOT officials remain open to the public comments he expects they’ll get on the Auke Lake Wayside.