FAIRBANKS — Opponents of the proposed McGrath Road extension were unanimous among participants who had a chance to speak at an open house Tuesday night.
More than 100 people came to the meeting at the Dog Mushers Hall on Farmers Loop. They questioned the state Department of Transportation’s premise that two north Fairbanks intersections have congestion problems. They also challenged the agency’s proposed solution — a road due north from the intersection of the Old Steese Highway and the Johansen Expressway along the eastern boundary of Creamer’s Field Migratory Wildlife Refuge.
Tuesday’s open house was designed to answer questions and gather community opinions, said DOT’s project manager, Al Beck. Construction is not expected until summer 2017 at the earliest, and local residents still have plenty of chances to influence the design of the project, he said.
The purpose of the road is to alleviate congestion at the corner of the Steese Highway and Johansen Expressway and to a lesser extent at the corner of the Steese Highway and Farmers Loop. It’s estimated that by 2017, during peak times, an average of 1,065 vehicles per hour will turn left from the Johansen onto the Steese Highway, he said. Already, vehicles can face wait times longer than three minutes at the intersection, which classifies it as a failed intersection for the DOT, he said.
To fix the problem, Beck said his superiors at the local DOT office asked him to design a road between the Old Steese Highway and McGrath Road. A road along the Creamer’s refuge boundary is the first possibility they considered, though there are other options, including a road that jogs east to Old Farmers Loop, he said.
There also are alternatives to a McGrath Road extension, including a three-lane roundabout at the Steese-Johansen intersection and a “fly-over,” an elevated roadway that would transport vehicles on the Johansen over the Steese Highway to make it easier to turn left. For now, Beck said, these projects are beyond the scope of his assignment, though they might be considered in the future if there was strong community support.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545.