I’ve got a couple of pieces of new information about the Steese Expressway trail underpass.
First, it appears the underpass (or tunnel) still may be included as part of the plans for the Steese Expressway/Johansen Expressway Interchange Project, even though it wasn’t included in the paperwork submitted to the Fairbanks Borough Assembly.
Second, three Assembly members are working on a resolution to make sure that the Department of Transportation knows the Assembly still wants the trail tunnel.
Here’s a LINK to my first post about this issue, when it was unsure if the tunnel was going to be part of the project. And if you haven’t let the Assembly know you support this project, please DO. It’s not a done deal until it’s built.
UPDATE 04-25: I just found out from Assemblymember Kristan Kelly that DOT wants the borough to cover the $2 million for the tunnel. I would like to know why. Is that a statewide policy?
UPDATE TO MY UPDATE: This afternoon (04-25) I emailed DOT about this question. I got a quick response from Project Delivery Lead Lauren Little. Here’s the relevant information from the email (edited for brevity): “Our funding source (FHWA) comes with a lot of rules that aren’t super trail compatible. We’ll continue working with FAST Planning and FNSB on the details of how this is funded. There are grant opportunities across a variety of agencies these days that we can look into as well as we get closer to construction.”
DOT SAYS TUNNEL STILL A PART OF THE PROJECT
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has a good STORY about the project in today’s paper. The article includes assurances that the tunnel is still being considered for the project. John Perreault, information officer for the Northern Region of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said the size of the tunnel is being reduced for “space and cost reasons,” according to reporter Jack Barnwell.
The original size would have required that the all lanes of the Steese be closed during construction. The smaller tunnel won’t require that, but when finished it will still be wide enough to accommodate trail grooming equipment, Perreault said.
The interchange project has several other features that DOT says will improve bicycle and pedestrian safety. Donald Galligan, transportation planner for the Fairbanks Borough, is quoted in the article saying biking and pedestrian safety is “one of the main reasons for this project.”
The News-Miner article has much more about the project. You can read it HERE.
KUAC also has a story today on the project with information about the tunnel. I will include a link once that story has been archived. UPDATE: Here’s a link to the KUAC STORY.
ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION IN THE WORKS
According to Assemblymember Aaron Lojewski, he and Assemblymembers Kristan Kelly and Savannah Fletcher are working on a resolution to emphasize that the Assembly still wants the tunnel. The Assembly passed a RESOLUTION in support of the tunnel in 2021. The new resolution will be introduced at Thursday’s meeting. My original POST has information on how you can let the Assembly know you support this project.
It appears that concerns that the tunnel might have been left off the project are simply do to a miscommunication. Hopefully, that is the case. Still, speaking up about this is not wasted. It pays to speak up loud and often about the importance of trails (and alternative forms of transportation to cars and trucks) to our community.