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FMATS Still Considering College Road Reconfiguration

Fairbanks, AK - A controversial plan to change a Fairbanks road from four lanes to three could get another look. The plan to reconfigure traffic on the west end of College Road will be on the agenda for a meeting of the Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System Policy Committee later this month.  The issue was also discussed during at an FMATS technical committee meeting last week.

FMATS coordinator Donna Gardino noted general opposition voiced about the proposed lane reduction during a heavily attended public open house last month. "A lot of people did not want to be slowed down. A lot of people did not want to have to stop for buses and did not want to get stuck behind slow vehicles," she said.

Gardino told committee members that the sentiment was very different from what was heard about the plan during a similar open house on the project last fall, something she attributed to different people attending. "We had more of a 70/30, people wanting it to people who don't, so this is a very significant kind of turn around," she said.

The creation of a center turn lane and an increase in road shoulder width to better accommodate bicycles, is recommended for the west end of College Road in an independently authored corridor study. North Star Borough Transportation planner KellenSpillman emphasizes the changes are based on safety data.

"When we see a route like College Road, with higher than statewide average crashes along the roadway, and see solutions like this change from four lanes to three lanes, which are proven across the country, the AASHTO manual says 29 percent, but we have other studies from New York City, Minnesota, Iowa, Washington, etcetera, that say it could even be higher than that. We have to see that as an opportunity to reduce the higher than average crashes along College Road," he said.

Alaska Department of Transportation planner Judy Chapman says the safety data can be reconsidered in light of recent public concern about congestion. "We like to have traffic move smoothly. So those two things weigh against each other maybe a little bit, but if the delay isn't that significant and the crash reduction is, then I would suspect the DOT would potentially want to support the recommendations of this corridor study," she said.

Chapman says it’s up to the FMATS Policy committee to deal with the politics that the College Road plan has generated. The committee is scheduled to meet July 16th. Construction is slated for next summer.