Road proposals in Anchorage's U-Med District.
- The comment period on the new DOWL/HKM report ends November 3, 2011
The DOWL/HKM final report on the Bragaw extension project (aka Northern Access to U-Med District) is available on the project website. Comments on the report may be submitted through November 3, 2011 by e-mail, postal service or fax. They say that all comments received during this period will be compiled and submitted with the report to the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions (AMATS). AMATS will make the decision on whether to proceed with the project.
- The comment period on the draft Anchorage Metro Transportation Plan (MTP) ends October 31, 2011.
The reason we mention this is the draft MTP includes the Bragaw extension project in the list of projects to be constructed in the “near term” (defined as 2011 to 2023).
It would be good to try to convince the authors to move the project into the “long term” (2024 to 2035) or “illustrative” (beyond 2035) categories.
In the draft MTP the Bragaw extension project is ranked 25th out of the 40 “near term” projects. So you might be tempted to think that it won’t get built for a good long while. But according to a MOA Planning Dept presentation at the October Rogers Park CC meeting, the ranking in the MTP will likely have no bearing on which projects get built first. Ranking in the AMATS Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is what matters (currently only the DOWL/HKM study is in the TIP – it was ranked 4th out of nine projects in its group.)
The draft “2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan” (MTP) is available for review. Comments will be taken herethroughout October 31, 2011. Additional comment opportunities will be available at public hearings.
-Diana and Dave Evans
Summary of final DOWL/HKM report on the Bragaw Extension
The alternatives proposed to be carried forward are the same four (G, I, J, and K in image below) that they proposed in the May 2011 meeting, plus the “Transportation Demand Management” (TDM) alternative (previously excluded). “G” is the Bragaw extension, “I” is the Bragaw extension routed to the NE, and “J” and “K” extend from near the UAA Arts building to Bragaw/Northern Lights. The TDM includes two huge parking lots at the corner of Bragaw and Northern Lights (pink shaded areas), as well as People Mover enhancement.
Our thoughts on the final DOWL/HKM report on the Bragaw Extension
In case you’d like to discuss or plagiarize, here are our thoughts:
a. Any additional engineering or planning work on “north access” should not be done until the U-Med District Plan update and parking study is completed. Reference: State of Alaska budget FY2012 Reference No. 53922, “Reapprop to DCCED for MOA for U-Med District Plan and parking utilization study.”
b. The traffic growth rate appear to be unrealistically high and therefore the predicted traffic delays and need for the project are overstated. The study predict an 45% increase in U-Med district traffic from 2011 to 2030 (that’s an annual growth rate of about 2%). In stark contrast, a 2009 ISER population study predicts an average annual population growth rate of 0.78% (base case) for the next 25 years (and the rate of growth is decreasing). If U-Med traffic increased at the ISER population rate, in 2030 it would only be 16% over 2011 levels, and delays would not be much worse than they are now. Granted, U-Med district growth might be faster than the average population growth, but no doubt there are limits. This is another good reason to delay any decisions until after the U-Med District Plan is updated.
c. The construction cost estimates in the report are much too low. They do not include costs for: re-routing trails; vehicular or pathway bridges and tunnels; building roads on poor soils; landscaping; or environmental permitting and mitigation. Low-balling the estimates will reduce the likelihood that features essential to the community (trails, sidewalks, bike lanes, pathway bridges) are included in the project. Low-balling might change the relative ranking of the alternatives and therefore change which ones should be carried forward.
d. DOWL’s mandate was to evaluate all technically feasible alternatives for improving access; we think they left a number of those out, including:
1. Evaluating perimeter intersection improvements (e.g., at Elmore/Tudor, Lake Otis/36th/Providence, Northern Lights/Bragaw, UAA Drive/Northern Lights)
2. Evaluating perimeter roadway improvements (the bounding streets: Tudor, Lake Otis, Bragaw)
3. Expand UAA Drive to be a three-lane road, with two lanes going south in the a.m. and two going north in the p.m. This would be similar to Concept “B,” but at reduced cost.
e. The study does not quantitatively address the effect of the alternatives on non-vehicular safety.
f. The study demonstrated that the “Bragaw Extension” would significantly increase cut-through traffic on U-Med roads and a quarter of the traffic on the new extension would be “cut-through.” That would increase the hazard to pedestrians (including East High students) and recreational and commuting bicyclists who attempt to cross “at grade.”
The Universities and Medical (U-Med) District in Anchorage, Alaska encompasses 1,130 acres of land about 2.5 miles from downtown. In addition to housing universities and medical campuses, the area offers an extensive network of multi-use paved and unpaved trails that are very popular year-round. Users vary from pedestrians heading back to their car, to college students, commuters, joggers, skiiers, cyclists, summer kids going to camp, dog sled mushers, etc. Additionally, the natural landscape in the area is stunning and offers four lakes, wildlife such as moose, loons, goshawks, and great horned owls, and at least 12 stands of predominantly black spruce trees, 50-100 years of age (U-Med Master Plan). The area exemplifies what many Anchorage residents are proud to call the urban wilderness, and we're lucky to have it in our backyard.
ACE is concerned about proposals for roads through the U-Med District because we think they are premature and contradict comprehensive study and recommendations already put forth in the U-Med District Master Plan. New roads through the District would irreversibly impact the area's recreational opportunities, promote car use as opposed to transit, and affect habitat. We are in favor of conducting further study in the district to identify transit needs and alternatives, such as increased public transit, increased sidewalks, and improved trails, that would be more in line with the U-Med Master Plan and prevent the need for new roads.
To learn more about the road proposals, click here.
To learn how you can take action, click here.
To learn more about the U-Med District Master Plan and for talking points, click here.
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