Future roundabouts

An artist’s drawing shows what roundabouts would look like at the exchanges of Steese Highway and Chena Hot Springs Road. The Fairbanks North Star Borough will hear public testimony and discuss the proposed roundabout on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, at 6 p.m. in the FNSB building on Terminal Street.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Planning Commission will hear public testimony on the controversial Chena Hot Springs-Steese roundabout project at a Tuesday night meeting.

The proposed project, first introduced more than two years ago, would create a double roundabout at the intersection of Chena Hot Springs Road and the Steese Highway. One roundabout would be constructed on each side of the Steese Highway to theoretically slow speeds of vehicles leaving and entering the highways via off-ramps and on-ramps.

Alaska Department of Transportation officials cite public safety as the central reason for moving forward with the project, noting that roundabouts tend to slow traffic. They are hoping to reduce the number of traffic accidents that way. 

The proposal has been one of controversy for a number of years. In 2016, North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson and former Fairbanks Democratic Rep. David Guttenberg opposed the project, which received heavy public opposition, and worked to kill the state’s portion of funding for it. At the time the project was projected to cost $4 million in federal funding, which required a $400,000 state match.

As recently as January, Wilson remained opposed to the project. At the time, Healy Republican Rep. Dave Talerico, whose district includes much of Chena Hot Springs Road, said he had not taken a position on the topic.

The DOT has found a way to move forward with the project through federal funding rather than state dollars. Construction is set to begin during the 2020 summer construction season. 

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and be held at the FNSB building on Terminal Street.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.