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Road remains in proposal phase: Construction of Old Steese-McGrath project depends on many factors

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Posted: Saturday, September 29, 2012 12:00 am

Community perspective

Like many Alaskans, I enjoy living in our great state because of what I can find in my backyard: pristine wilderness, wildlife, and the chance for an outdoor adventure everywhere I turn.

I carry this attitude with me to work, at the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, where our mission is to “get Alaska moving” through service and infrastructure. In every project, we emphasize safety and convenience for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

The proposed Old Steese to McGrath Road connector project is very early in the planning phase, with construction possible no sooner than 2017. In cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, DOT&PF proposed a project to upgrade and extend Northside Boulevard from the Johansen Expressway intersection to the McGrath Road-Farmers Loop intersection.

This creates a connector that will reduce excessive traffic delay and congestion for Fairbanksans at two main intersections, the Steese Highway and the Johansen Expressway, and the Steese Highway and Farmers Loop. The connector will also provide another north- and south-bound link between the Farmers Loop residential area and the commercial areas to the south. This project includes intersections and accommodations, including a separated path, for pedestrians and cyclists.

While these changes will improve the driving experience for many around Fairbanks, I have to emphasize that the project, estimated at $14.9 million, is still in the early planning phase. The final design and subsequent construction is dependent on several factors.

These factors include environmental findings, agency input and engineering studies. These ongoing studies are examining the overall benefit of the proposed road.

The studies, which will examine factors such as traffic patterns and volumes, will identify other strategies to connect these two intersections. Once these studies are complete in spring 2013, DOT will consider these routes as alternatives to the current proposed connector.

Another important factor is community involvement. DOT&PF wants to hear what the Fairbanksans have to say. I encourage everyone to get involved. Visit dot.alaska.gov/nreg/oldsteese-mcgrath/purpose.shtml online to learn more about the Old Steese to McGrath Road connector project. The project team will continuously update the website and host the first public meeting this fall. The public is encouraged to attend these meetings to ask questions and provide written, detailed comments.

We at DOT&PF look forward to hearing Fairbanksans’ feedback about the proposed Old Steese to McGrath Road connector project.

Steve Titus, P.E., a lifelong Fairbanksan, is the director of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Northern Region.

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