The authorities behind a proposed road in Anchorage's U-Med district announced their route choice Thursday, finalizing a plan to create a north-south link through the fast-growing area.
Members of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities were at the Northern Access to U-Med Project press conference Thursday afternoon. The meeting was held at the Anchorage headquarters of engineers DOWL-HKM.
DOT officials and DOWL project managers noted the route could alleviate congestion for the 11 percent of Anchorage's work force employed in the U-Med District.
The proposed route would extend Elmore Road through University of Alaska-Anchorage property, connecting it to the Bragaw and Northern Lights Boulevard intersection. The new roadway has an estimated cost of $19.4 million, falling below the $22 million provided by the state legislature.
A preliminary design of the 0.7 mile-long, two-lane road includes three roundabouts, a bike path and separated crossings for pedestrians, cyclists and skiers.
DOT has been soliciting public comment on the optimum route for months. A decision was expected in January following analysis of comments received.
"We got a lot of comments like 'this should have been done yesterday' and 'do the direct route.' So we've established a connection that is direct, that meets the purpose and need," said Steward Osgood, project manager and president of DOWL-HKM.
Backers of the road, including Anchorage Assembly Chair Ernie Hall, have said they hope it will ease access to the U-Med district, so named for its bustling mix of university campuses and medical facilities. Hall says assessing the project requires a wider scope of vision, and that he believes it will benefit the community as a whole.
Former state Rep. Sharon Cissna and current Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), who have both represented districts in the construction zone, panned the project's possible effects. Cissna calls it potentially dangerous for students at East High School and Russian Jack Elementary School, while Josephson said he continues to oppose funding for the road.
The University Area Community Council opposes development altogether, said council president Jacob Gondek. He called the decision a let-down.
"The major concern is actually going to be the loss of pedestrian pathways and the natural environment, keeping it open for cross country skiing and animal crossings," said Gondek.
Construction on the Northern Access to U-Med project is slated to begin next year. More information on its status is available on the project's website.
Public comment is still being taken, officials say. The next public meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 6p.m. at East High School.
Channel 2's Abby Hancock also contributed to this report.