State transportation officials have selected a preferred route for a mid-town Anchorage road connecting the University of Alaska and two city hospitals with major traffic arteries. The municipality and the state are partners in the project, along with landholders in what is called the U-Med district.
Stuart Osgood, a consultant with the engineering firm Dowl HKM, says the new road will serve a major employment center for Anchorage
“About 11 percent of Anchorage’s workforce works in the U-Med district, which is really shocking. 1 in 9 jobs coming from there. When we went through our analysis, we discovered that about 43% percent of all of the trips into and out of the U-Med area were headed to destinations north and east – to Eagle River, to north east Anchorage, maybe to the Valley. Yet we have very poor access north and east of the U-Med district.”
Osgood says the new road takes pressure off high – crash routes leading to and from two universities within the district.
A 2009 study identified fifteen potential routes, but only four were selected for study. Of those, two were not supported by UAA, because they would route five to seven thousand cars a day through the university campus, causing potential conflict with pedestrians. A third route was considered too expensive.
The preferred route connects Elmore to Bragaw, allowing vehicles to flow South through UAA lands. A good portion of those lands are wetlands, according to the state Department of Transportation’s chief highway design group’s Jim Amundsen. Amundsen says wetlands permits required by the US Army Corps of Engineers will be applied for, now that a route has been selected. One million dollars has been budgeted for wetlands environmental concerns. Steward Osgood says the Corps
” They first looked to us to avoid, and then to minimize and then to mitigate, and we’ll be doing all of those things. And at the end will pay fee in leiu of mitigation, so the project actually pays into a bank that is used to buy conservation lands elsewhere that are valuable in the eyes of the Corps of Engineers. So that million dollars is set aside for the fee in leiu of mitigation.”
The mitigation program requires a developer to pay into a bank that buys alternate wetlands to compensate for those damaged by construction.
The legislature has provided 22 million dollars so far for the road project. Dowl’s Osgood says the preferred route is expected to cost 19 point 4 million dollars for point seven miles of road. It is designed to be a two lane road, with a bicycle lane and pedestrian walkways. Osgood says work on the new road could begin in about a year, and a 2015 opening date is expected.
An open house on the U-Med road is set for next week at East High School in Anchorage.