News from Patrick Flynn

Success at Bragaw

On Monday, October 6, I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Glenn-Bragaw interchange. It was a nice event where I got to meet Frank Richards, the Department of Transportation‘s deputy commissioner, in person and exchange greetings with several folks I know through the Mountain View community council. I took away a couple observations about the project that inform some of my thinking about transportation planning for Southcentral Alaska.

  • First, DOT Central Region Director Gordon Keith took a few moments during his comments to thank the citizens advisory group. This team, led by Mountain View resident Claire Noll, worked with personnel from DOT and the contractors to design an interchange that serves the neighborhood well. As a result, a high-speed highway interchange actually improved pedestrian and bicycle traffic patterns for Mountain View and Russian Jack residents. And it’s a safer, more attractive design than any other interchange I’ve seen in Anchorage.
  • Second, the funding source for this $42.5 million project was state general funds, which allowed the interchange to be designed, built and completed in just three years (actual construction was about 15 months). DOT Commissioner Leo Von Scheben commented that, had federal funds been used, the project would likely still be in the permitting phase. (Full disclosure: Commissioner Von Scheben, or Leo, as I know him, is by state statute a director on the board of the company for which I work. Further, Leo is a long-time family friend and, while I doubt he would vote for me, is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect.)
  • Third, when coupled with the expansion of Fifth Avenue and the highway from four lanes to six (from Gambell to McCarrey), Glenn Highway traffic is already moving much more smoothly. Mayor Mark Begich said received a call from a commuter on the first day the new lanes and interchange were open who reported his fastest trip ever through downtown and onto the highway. Commissioner Von Scheben, who commutes daily from the Big Lake area, noted that traffic on the first day flowed so smoothly it seemed like a state holiday and wondered if he was supposed to be going to work!

All three of the above speakers noted this new interchange is the first step in a “legacy” – once in a generation – transportation project, the Highway-to-Highway connection. From the above observations I would make the following conclusions:

  1. Properly executed, the H2H project really can make a tremendous positive difference for Southcentral transportation users, both motorized and non-motorized,
  2. Engaging the community, and especially affected neighborhoods, is crucial to a successful project. It may take a little time and money on the front end, and the amenities they seek may cost a few dollars as well, but it’s much less expensive and time consuming than trying to ramrod a project through,
  3. State capital dollars are a good source for getting “new” projects completed more quickly, whereas federal funds might be better suited for road reconstruction, mass transit and other less permit-intensive uses.

With that, I’d appreciate your ideas for future transportation planning and priorities.



This contribution was made on Friday, 10. October 2008 at 06:40 and was published under the category Transportation. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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1 Comment

  1. I’m confused about why the State spent $42 million on “the first step” of the Highway to Highway project when we haven’t even developed the Purpose and Need statement for the Environmental Impact Study. The future the project is very uncertain.

    While the Fairview Council was told that we cannot ask for a study of land use impact because no alternative has been chosen, the State has clearly in mind what the outcome of H2H will be – as shown by investment in this project and vairous others which are currently routing more traffic onto Gambell-Ingra. (This suggestion that Fairview could not ask for such a study was false, as HDR has since revised the Purpose and Need statement.)

    I’d like to discuss this topic with you in person at some point if possible.

    Comment: Michael Howard – 10. October 2008 @ 12:38 pm

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