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College Road changes will improve safety

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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner community perspective: 

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) in partnership with the Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System (FMATS) will host an open house Wednesday from 5–7 p.m. to discuss the College Road rehabilitation project scheduled to be constructed during the summer of 2015.

The College Road rehabilitation project will replace worn-out pavement, sidewalks, curbs and gutters from University Avenue to Maryleigh Avenue.

In addition, the project will construct a new sidewalk on the south side of College Road from Alaska Way to Aurora Drive, and install a new right turn lane and traffic signal system at the Aurora Drive intersection to improve access to the fairgrounds.

Beginning in 2013, FMATS conducted a year-long study of the entire College Road corridor, evaluating vehicle and pedestrian safety, vehicle capacity and bicycle and transit operation safety. 

You can download information on this study from the FMATS website at fmats.us/collegeroad

The results of this study indicate that there is a safety benefit to converting the portion of College Road from University Avenue to the College/Margaret/Antoinette intersection to a three-lane configuration — single-lane travel in both directions with a center turn lane (similar to the existing Davis Road configuration). 

The study indicates converting the corridor to the recommended configuration could potentially reduce vehicular traffic crashes by 30 percent, while maintaining a configuration that is comparable to Davis Road.

Other benefits to converting this portion of College Road to three lanes include fewer left turning traffic conflicts, fewer lanes to cross when turning onto College Road from side streets and a new shoulder separating the sidewalk from traffic. 

The capacity analysis also concluded that the conversion to three lanes will accommodate projected traffic growth in the next 20 years, with excess capacity for additional growth beyond that time frame.

While traffic speeds through the corridor are anticipated to drop slightly, the overall travel time to cross the corridor will only increase a small amount. 

The modification to three lanes will also give bicycles the option of riding on the shoulders and being more visible to motorists, or riding on the sidewalk as they do today. 

Pedestrians will benefit from having more buffer distance between themselves and traffic, as well as fewer high-speed bicycles on the sidewalk. 

Therefore, this modification will result in increased safety for all.

In the future, additional improvements are also being pursued to improve the corridor. 

MACS Transit currently runs one bus in each direction per hour on the weekdays. 

Existing bus pullouts and the departure of the bus route from College Road between Danby and Aurora will limit the impact of the stopped bus on through traffic. 

New bus pullouts will be considered in a new FMATS-sponsored project.

If you have any comments or questions, please take the opportunity to attend the open house Wednesday from 5–7 p.m. at the Agricultural Museum (red building) at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds.

Donna Gardino is the Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System (FMATS) metropolitan planning organization coordinator.

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