The state Department of Transportation will host an online public meeting Tuesday to present its plans for a $15 million project to reconfigure a busy intersection on the east side of Fairbanks that’s scheduled to begin next year.
Engineering Manager Carl Heim says the Transportation Department plans to begin work in about a year on the so-called GARS project. That’s an acronym for the four roadways that converge at the intersection: Gaffney Road, Airport Way, and the Richardson and Steese highways.
“So we’ll have a full construction season, April through October, and then the following year, April through October,” he said. “So, it’ll be two full seasons – so it’ll be ’22 and ’23.”
Transportation planners say the reconfigured intersection will reduce the number of collisions that occur there.
Heim says engineers initially considered building an overpass at the intersection, which would’ve cost about $50 million. But they settled on a different option called a Continuous Flow Intersection Median U-turn, which will cost less and take less time to build – and will be safer and allow more traffic flow than the present intersection.
“Basically, what this new design does is it takes all the left turns out of the main intersection,” he said in a recent interview.
Heim says for example motorists coming into town on the Richardson Highway from the south and intending to turn left onto westbound Airport Way would begin that maneuver well before the intersection.
“You’re going to actually make a left turn almost a thousand feet before you ever even get to the intersection,” he said. “So, you’re going to cross over, you’re going to go all the way out to Airport, and make your own left. You’re going to have your own dedicated left-turn lane.”
Motorists who are headed southbound on the Steese and want to turn left to get onto Fort Wainwright would pass through the intersection and then in a few hundred feet turn left and merge onto a two-lane off-ramp from the Richardson Highway that leads to the Main Gate.
Heim says members of the public who want to know more about the project to go online to the Department of Transportation’s website for maps and video that show how traffic would move through the reconfigured intersection. The project's web address is garsreconstruction.com.
He says the website also has a link to log-in to Tuesday’s virtual meeting, scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Transportation officials hope the public will check out the site and offer feedback on the project.