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PUBLISHED: 7:24 PM on Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Sunny Point intersection construction aimed to eventually help traffic woes
Little by little, structures and shapes are rising out of the dust at the Sunny Point Intersection construction site. It's been a popular topic around Juneau for some time, as people drive through and by the site each day. Questions are circling such as "when will they be done, what all are they doing and why?" To rehash the topic, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has the answers for curious folks.

In partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, DOT&PF is constructing the "Sunny Point Intersection Improvements Project" to address safety and access deficiencies to the West Lemon Creek area in Juneau, according to the State Web site. The project is funded with State and Federal monies, and headed by prime contractor, Secon. Dollar wise, the contract bid amount was more than $26 million, sources said.

"Issues with Sunny Point Intersection accidents were identified as far back as 1993. This is roughly when the islands prohibiting left turns toward town were installed and when traffic on Glacier Highway increased partially because of the new K-Mart store," said Soc Kreuzenstein, engineering manager of DOT&PF.

According to DOT&PF the improvements focus on problems including traffic movements currently restricted and access to West Lemon Valley being limited. High potential for serious collisions exists and turning vehicles are forced to stop within the Egan Drive through-lanes. Sunny Point traffic is forced to accelerate or decelerate in Egan Drive through-lanes.


Courtesy photo
  An aerial photo of Sunny Point proposed action portrays access would be via a separate underpass, crossing under Egan Drive about 300 feet west of existing Sunny Drive intersection.
Drivers are confused by the layout and signing of the intersections and bicycle and pedestrian access to Sunny Point is difficult.

As the intersections become more congested, conditions will worsen and accident potential will increase, they said.

The Sunny Point intersection rates high for accident locations in Southeast Alaska.

In 2003 and 2004, the intersection was the fifth highest location in SE for number of accidents and weighted or severity of accidents, according to statistic reports.

The overall layout of the final project includes: a diamond interchange that will raise Egan Driver over a new access road that connects to Glacier Highway next to the west end of the new Wal-Mart store parking lot; a traffic signal at the intersection of the new access road; access to Sunny Point would be via a separate underpass, crossing under Egan Drive about 300 feet west of the existing Sunny Drive intersection.

"Internal and sometimes informal discussions continued for the next 10 years. Preliminary funding was secured and after several possible design alternatives were identified, the Public Hearing process began," Kreuzenstein said.

"This effort lasted a year or more with several neighborhood groups voicing concerns about design, noise, safety, wetlands, (and) Mendenhall State Game Refuge; this eventually led to design changes and a preferred alternate design."

Beginning in early 2005, environmental permitting and preliminary designs were begun, he said.

Nineteen project alternatives and six alternatives in depth were considered before selecting the proposed action to be evaluated in the EA.

During the project reconnaissance, DOT&PF held two public meetings, and met with the Sunny Point Neighborhood Association, the Mendenhall Refuge Advisory Group and the City and Borough of Juneau.

"When project design work and permitting was finally complete, the project was advertised for construction late 2006. Construction commenced mid-April 2007," Kruezenstein said.

The 2007 spring construction has a timeline of two years, and is anticipated to be completed in spring 2009, the Web site states.

"The project was behind schedule earlier this summer, but the contractor has managed to regain ground, and should be just about where he wanted to be at winter shutdown," said Thad Hopper, DOT&PF project construction engineer.

In a recent DOT&PF press release, the following information was made available to the public concerning work completed this summer and expected activities for the fall and winter months:

"To date, the project 'footprint' has been established along with associated erosion control measures. Approximately 45 percent of the anticipated 'borrow haul' is complete.

The Switzer Creek culverts have been replaced complete with concrete headwalls, baffles and spawning gravel.

The 'Un-named Creek' and 'East Creek' outfall culvert sections have been installed with temporary connections to the original drainage facilities until they can be completed next year. A 'future-use' sewer line to Sunny Drive has been installed under the south half of the project. It too will be completed next year after traffic is switched to the south side of the project," the press release states.

"The contractor expects to be working on the project as long as weather allows this fall, probably until late November 2007. Their efforts will be focused on continued embankment construction, placement of pre-cast concrete bridge girders, and associated construction of the retaining wall around the Sunny Point Access Bridge Base."

In May or June 2008, most likely pavement, guardrail and bridge rail work on the in-bound lanes will be completed in an effort to move traffic as soon as possible to the inbound lanes.

In February, possible culvert work will take place with weather and low water allowances. On Glacier Highway, three major culvert crossings, a utility crossing and a traffic signal with associated underground conductors will all be installed. Work for 2008 on Egan Drive, will be a near repeat of the 2007 summer effort, only the work will be in the out-bound lanes.

"The concrete barrier detour will remain in place through the winter of 2007-08. With thoughts of winter icing conditions and snow removal on everyone's mind, the department would like to remind the traveling public to obey the posted 45 MPH maximum speed through the construction zone," the press release said.

As with any project, and especially in one so vast, there are obstructions to overcome.

"The two biggest challenges we have had so far are the construction of the Switzer Creek pipes, and trying to build the project within the tight environmental and Right Of Way constraints imposed upon the project," Hopper said.

For more information on the Sunny Point project visit: www.dot.state.ak.us/stwdplng/projectinfo/ser/pdande/index.shtml.


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