Recently I received the Minnie Street Corridor Study for public review because we lease property in the area, live close to downtown and drive this area daily. I also reviewed the online study and attended the meeting reviewing some of the proposals.
The public comment period ends today. You can find the Minnie Street Corridor Study at bit.ly/2Pw5gwO.
The stated objective of this study, done for the city of Fairbanks, is to identify cost-effective improvements and address transportation issues.
We use Minnie Street quite frequently. I question improving this for more traffic flow. It is a narrow residential street, we have worked in this neighborhood and know several landowners along Minnie. It is not uncommon for vehicles to travel at a high rate of speed. Many of these residential lots are narrow, lacking off-street parking and having driveways that require the residents back out into Minnie Street with limited visibility. Increasing traffic flow at potentially higher speeds will only exacerbate this issue.
Adding speed bumps is part of the planning. I would question any road improvement that includes speed bumps.
Is there a need for increased east-west access? If one is accessing the Steese Highway, then traveling north on Illinois Street to College Road and then to the Steese, then College Road to the Johansen Expressway would appear to be a more viable solution. Both the Johansen Expressway and College Road are four-lane roadways designed for high traffic flow. Neither of these two routes has residential homes adjacent to the roadway in this area.
Consider ending Minnie Street at or just west of the bridge. This would certainly improve two of the listed goals: “improve nonmotorized access, reduce conflicts and neighborhood livability.”
From my experience, Minnie Street does experience high traffic flows during certain times of the day, typically as early evening traffic is leaving the downtown area. Due to the recent revision of Illinois Street, any northbound traffic is currently directed onto Minnie Street due to the fact Illinois Street changes from two northbound lanes to one at Minnie Street.
When Illinois Street was improved, it should have continued as a four-lane all the way to College Road. Illinois Street provides excellent access to both directions on College Road, the Johansen Expressway and shopping areas on the north side and along College Road.
This report includes various corridor improvement concepts other than Minnie Street. This is Phase 2, which is referenced as B, C1, C3 and C5, all of which are meant to improve traffic flow, and safety to and from the downtown area. The C concept is meant to connect the Johansen Expressway to Minnie Street, which would further increase traffic along Minnie Street, by definition a minor artery. I have to question the need for someone traveling northeast on the Johansen Expressway to get off and travel east on Minnie Street to access the Steese Highway when they could easily continue to either College Road or the Steese Highway on the Johansen Expressway utilizing existing intersections that are in place and designed for high traffic flow.
C1 involves an overpass. C3 and C5 also require an overpass and a grade crossing of the railroad tracks. The distance saved by circumventing College Road is minor. Overpasses can be dangerous in winter driving and make snow removal more difficult. Concept B once again directs traffic onto Minnie Street. Currently, we have two grade crossings to contend with at our business location. Introducing more grade crossings in this area or anywhere just seems like a bad idea, especially if the crossing is at the bottom of the overpass.
Instead, consider further improvements along Phillips Field Road by realigning the road to follow the river. The river is a wonderful and underutilized feature along that road. There is plenty of room to expand the roadway except for a bottleneck where the coal is transferred across the river. If Phillips Field Road were realigned, Flowline would no longer have to cross the road to use both areas of its property. The road recently underwent some upgrades; however, it is still a narrow dangerous road with high traffic and no shoulders. There is a section that appears to be a bike path that can only be accessed from one end. People do ride bicycles along here all year.
The connection to Illinois Street would have to be upgraded, as well. This would provide excellent access to downtown with potential to alleviate the pressure on Minnie Street, improve a dangerous road and provide a beautiful park on the north side of the Chena River.
John Ellison is a 40-year resident and has spent 25 years living and working close to downtown, specifically in the Minnie Street area. He and his wife, Sue, own a business in the area.