Juneau and DOT take early step toward second Douglas Island crossing

A barge with a crane on board travels under the Douglas Bridge on its way to raise the tug Challenger from the bottom of Gastineau Channel in February of 2016. A second crossing would make new port facilities possible in West Douglas, which could resolve tight squeezes like this one. (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

City and state transportation officials signed a deal on Aug. 10 that’s a step toward a long-standing goal to build a second road crossing to Douglas Island.

The agreement says the state Department of Transportation will lead a planning and environmental study. That study is just one step on a long path toward securing federal funding. City engineers have ballparked the cost of a second crossing of Gastineau Channel at $90 million.

The city will reimburse the state for up to $210,000 for work on the study. The Juneau Assembly committed $250,000 of local sales tax money — which is still available — toward a second crossing back in 2018. In the agreement, they estimate the study will cost $2 million total.

The agreement outlines work to be done on rights of way, design, environmental impacts and public involvement. It also suggests hiring outside consultants.

The state Department of Transportation’s project manager Marie Heidemann says work on the study is expected to start this fall and will likely take one or two years to complete.

The Federal Highway Administration will cover the balance of the study’s cost.

The city’s long-term plans say the future development of the backside of Douglas Island — particularly of new, deep-water port facilities — hinges on a second crossing to accommodate more traffic, including heavy industrial trucks.

A barge hauling a construction crane that struck the bridge on Aug. 5 highlighted another known issue: tight clearance for marine traffic. New port facilities, which a second crossing would make possible, could resolve that. The damage to the bridge was superficial, but had it been more serious, emergency access to Douglas Island would have been severely limited.

Old analyses have flagged congestion during the peak morning commute at the Douglas Bridge intersection as “unacceptably” bad.

The Juneau Assembly passed resolutions in 2005 and 2007 to work on a second crossing. The latter called specifically for a crossing to begin near Vanderbilt Hill Road.

In 2010, local voters shot down a ballot question to fund a crossing from the Sunny Point interchange to near Fish Creek Road. It was 2-to-1 against.

This story has been updated with comment from state DOT project manager Marie Heidemann.

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