Category Archives: highway

big fall update

Alley near Mt. View Dr. and Klevin St.

Alley near Mt. View Dr. and Klevin St.

It has been awhile since I’ve written about Mt. View here!  I’ve had an event-filled summer including travelling for a whole month.  I reconnected with some old friends from the 1980s, and really didn’t think about Mt. View most of the time.  Still, there’s a lot going on — so will try, in a lame/half-assed way to tell…

Street Fair.  A really ambitious, volunteer-fueled family fun event was pulled off on an intermittently sunny Saturday afternoon August 8th.  Months of intensive planning sessions by local stakeholders and businesses, including Credit Union 1, the Anchorage Community Land Trust and many others resulted in an action-packed day.  It was very well-attended [jammed, really] and showcased Mt. View’s diversity.  Hope it’s the first of what will be an annual festivity.  [More photos.]

MTS Gallery and Trailer Art Center.  Mt. View’s expanding arts immersion facility soldiered on this summer with some truly groundbreaking works — including the critically acclaimed ‘367 lbs. of wax‘ by Steph Kese and Erin Pollock; a Bunnell St. Arts Center-curated group invitational show on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill; and a moody, well-crafted performance piece where we bid farewell to performance art producer Ruby Kennell [hoping, as always with straying friends for her eventual safe return to Alaska].  The current exhibit, Le Roman du Lievre: Marginalia, a creation of James Riordan [with a little help from his friends] opened Sept. 18th.  A rotating exhibit of student artwork from Anchorage schools was launched in the lobby space right behind the MTS Gallery.  Meanwhile, Trailer Art Center is exploring possibilities for a more modest expansion of its facility and programs, maybe involving moving to a different location [but still in Mt. View], while continuing to scheme with its funders, backers and members about how to build the center they really want.  MTS Gallery is located at 3142 Mt. View Dr., open Sat. and Sun. noon to 4:00 and Wed. 5:00–8:00 PM.

Trompe LOeil by Behind the 8 Ball Enterprises, from Spill -- Alaskan Artists Remember.

'Trompe L'Oeil' by Behind the 8 Ball Enterprises, from Spill -- Alaskan Artists Remember.

Clark Middle School.  The contractors doubled down and finished the gleaming new school in time for the beginning of the school year last month.  The 7th and 8th graders in the school’s attendance district have been distributed amongst four other Anchorage middle schools for two years while the old school was completely demolished and the new one built on the same site at the SW corner of Mt. View Dr. and Bragaw St.  No word yet whether or not the ghost moved into the new school.

Mt. View Branch Library.  The new library with attached community meeting room is under construction at the corner of the school site.  The building was built as a library in 1967, replacing a former branch library nearby but was closed in 1987 by former Anchorage mayor Tom Fink.  New Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan is of a similar mindset to Fink, and so the library system is again on hard times — so it’s looking like when the new Mt. View branch opens it will be staffed by one single paid employee and operate very limited hours.  Well, I hope the librarian still enjoys the work, and the library will turn into a well-loved neighborhood destination and resource.

Credit Union 1 branch.  On the opposite [NE] corner of Bragaw St. and Mt. View Dr. construction continues on Credit Union 1’s Mt. View location.  Underground utility and foundation work are complete and we expect to see the building coming up very soon.

Demolition and vacancy.  Teardowns continue along Mt. View Dr. and intermittently within the residential part of the neighborhood.  There is more vacant commercial property here than at any time in the last few decades.  Many of the buildings still extant are marginally occupied.  A wholesale reinvention of the commercial strip seems less likely than ever.  In the industrial district in the SW part of Mt. View, vacancy rates are creeping back up.  The newly finished Glenn Square Mall is only about 1/3 full, its prospects not looking well.

Crime and punishment.  A new web-based crime map of Anchorage shows major police calls grouped by type and and pinned to a map with summary info.  I was delighted the other day when I looked at this and it showed zero activity in Mt. View [however temporarily].  Naturally, there’s still a great deal of misinformation out there about the level of crime in Mt. View compared to other parts of Anchorage, as a casual web search will reveal.

Community gardens at the end of the growing season, McPhee Ave.

Community gardens at the end of the growing season, McPhee Ave.

Community gardens.  I haven’t paid a lot of attention to these in the past, but I have noted they are really popular and well-utilized.  They’re located in the back of the neighborhood, north of McPhee Ave.  There’s a fascinating third world ambience there, with individual plots fenced off with rough branches, construction fencing, wire and twine, visqueen, scrap lumber, bed springs, oven racks, etc.  The gardeners get a lot of use of the plants, even harvesting the stalks of lettuce gone to seed.  There are three large new community garden plots near the SE corner of Bragaw and the Glenn Highway, built as part of the interchange project.  I’ll bet those will be full next year.

Highway interchange project.  Work is nearly complete on the $30 million state funded reconstruction of the corner of Bragaw Street and the Glenn Highway.  A lingering issue of funding for surveillance cameras in the pedestrian tunnel was finally solved.  The traffic lanes have been open for a year, but landscaping work continued this summer.  Some residents have said that the artwork component didn’t meet expectations, but all in all it has enhanced the entrance into Mt. View, especially in terms of pedestrian safety.

Cook Inlet Housing Authority.  CIHA continues its housing projects neighborhood-wide.  They have also purchased a property at the SE corner of Mt. View Dr. and Park St., across from their $10 million residential-commercial building and demolished an abandoned gas station on the site.  I am guessing they are planning another multifamily dwelling of some sort on this lot.  It is a beautiful site with a territorial view [as the real estate people say] of the Chugach mountains.  Last November, I emailed a series of questions to Carol Gore, CEO of CIHA and I want to publish her answers here — however, she’s been reluctant to respond.  Since I have been intensely critical at times of CIHA’s efforts over the years, she probably wants to avoid controversy.  Too bad!  She has said some really nice words about Trailer Art Center’s drive to build an arts center in Mt. View.  I hope she will reconsider at some point!

Mt. View Community Council.  At the most recent meeting the current slate of four C.C. officers were elected for another one year term.  It is President Don Crandall’s third [or fourth?  I can’t recall] year-long term.  Crandall has a nurturing, concensus-building style.  The meetings the last few months haven’t been as well-attended as in past years.  That’s a good news-bad news scenario — the bad part is people are apathetic.  The good aspect may be that, since the C.C. is much of the time a sounding board for problems and controversy, maybe the neighborhood is relatively trouble free these days?  I kidded with Crandall that the C.C. has ‘jumped the shark’.  The C.C. meets the second Monday of each month at 7:00 PM in the basement of the Mt. View Community Center at 315 Price St.

Beach Boys.  There has been a bowling alley in Mt. View for many years, hidden in a low-lying property backed up to the north side of the Glenn Highway and accessed from Park St. via Mt. View Dr.  The bowling alley had been on hard times in recent years, but experienced a little bump a couple years ago when some bowling leagues returned to play there after the closure of the nearest competing bowling alley in Muldoon.  This summer, a new group of owners made quite a splash by holding an unannounced Beach Boys concert in the bowling alley parking lot Aug. 31st.  The Beach Boys also played the State Fair that week.

I’m going to be writing a lot here about the Highway to Highway project in upcoming months.  I think this project represents the biggest current threat to life as we know it in Anchorage.  More on this soon.

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historical photos

I found these four in the online AMHA archives.

Looking east on Palmer Hwy., todays Mt View Dr in 1958.  Ward W. Wells photo.

Looking east on Palmer Hwy., today's Mt View Dr in 1958. Ward W. Wells photo.

Aerial of Mt View neighborhood, looking west, 1958.  Ward W. Wells photo.

Aerial of Mt View neighborhood, looking west, 1958. Ward W. Wells photo.

Looking east on the Palmer Hwy. at Bragaw St., 1950s.

Looking east on the Palmer Hwy. at Bragaw St., 1950s.

Grocery/liquor store owned by Norman Lange, one of Mt Views founders, 1942-3.

Grocery/liquor store owned by Norman Lange, one of Mt View's founders, 1942-3.

And these two of the same part of Mt View in the 1970s, by Stephen Cysewski:
Looking east on Mt View Dr at Bragaw St in the 1970s.

Looking east on Mt View Dr at Bragaw St in the 1970s.

Mt View Dr in the 1970s.  Jamicos is still there in 2008.

Mt View Dr in the 1970s. Jamico's is still there in 2008.

Update: 2007 Google earth screen shot from similar position to 1958 aerial above.

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begich on anchorage transportation priorities

More from Cheryl Richardson in an email:

Senator Elect Mark Begich spoke to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Here are his transportation comments as reported by an Anchorage Citizens Coalition member.  

There is strong demand for ride sharing programs, with a waiting list of, I believe, 600 people to participate in van pools from the Valley to Anchorage.
There should be funding for a train/rail option to the Valley before more costlier options like the bridge are promoted.
All transportation projects should be determined by local/community support. [emphasis added]
Financing and community support will drive the Knik Arm Bridge.  Funding updates are overdue and the bridge will cost $1 billion – with no plan to pay for it. Other problems include opposition from Government Hill, lack of a financial plan and availability of other solutions.
More road building leads to less congestion.  He was not joking, and referred to all of those roads he helped to build in Anchorage (including the Dowling Road Extension and the 48th Avenue from Boniface to Bragaw/Elmore through Bicentennial Park that the Mayor renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.)
Sen. Begich was VERY bullish on the need to build the H2H scheme, focusing on making a seamless highway connection from Glenn to the Seward highway. He spent a lot of time on this, and said that it’s a choke point for trucks and commerce from the ports.  Is that really true?
He was bullish on the Port of Anchorage, saying it’s happening. He further noted it was vital to U.S. defense/security needs as one of 16 critical defense infrastructure ports. The talking points sounded like the same talking points as former Gov. Sheffield in the talk he gave in November when he pretty much said the port’s expansion is vital to U.S. defense needs.
Personally, I was most concerned about the Mayor’s views about roads = less congestion and his strong support for the H2H project as it is currently envisioned as a major highway project. But the Mayor was a backer of the LRTP that said the same thing, as we all know.
However, as the Mayor said, if there are strong community views shown, the planners should listen and plan accordingly.

Interesting stuff.  I have been a strong supporter of all of Begich’s campaigns, and he’s been the best friend in city government Mt. View ever had [he even announced his run for the U.S. Senate here, earlier in the year]. 

I always find his views to reflect a strange mix of progressive and reactionary ideals.  He seemed woefully ill-informed on green design initiatives until sometime in ’06 when Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels took him aside and educated him.  Now we are replacing street lights and making several other modifications to cut energy usage.  I just wish he would experience a similar epiphany in regards to long term transportation planning and smart growth.  I think it will just take more time.

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mt view supports mass transit

Just received this in an email from Cheryl Richardson of Anchorage Citizens Coalition:

Last week, Mountain View Community Council adopted [a] resolution asking the State to help pay for operating People Mover.  The resolution goes next to Fairview Community Council.
While the state’s general fund has been tapped for several hundred million dollars to pay for road building in recent years, Alaska is one of only two states that do not help its cities operate its transit systems. 
State Senator Bill Wielechowski and State Rep Max Gruenberg represent East Anchorage and have expressed interest in expanding People Mover service.  The Daily News also published supportive editorials last Thursday and Friday.
Anchorage provides less transit service per capita than other western cities, while charging more at the farebox.  Just this year, for the first time, People Mover surpassed its 1982 ridership levels – with less service and fewer buses on the streets than in 1982. 
Staff say that ridership climbed significantly along with rising fuel prices this summer and fall, and ridership has stayed up, even with falling fuel prices this fall.
Anchorage Citizens Coalition supports transit expansion based on Anchorage 2020 land development goals secured by relible long term funding.

Good news!  It’s tempting to say it’s too bad it took decades and $4.00 gas to get there, and too bad it’s another statistic where Alaska comes in dead last or 47th out of 50 or whatever.  But let’s not go there.  Any improvement, any increase in awareness is progress.

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freeway is not free

I dropped by a presentation for the impending Highway to Highway project tonight. Of all the projects of the last five years [all $200 million worth in Mt View alone, or whatever number is being mentioned these days] this one is the most difficult to love. I thought the Glenn-Bragaw intersection project would be an affront to the senses, a deep compromise in the end — but the State Dept of Transportation and Public Facilities did something uncharacteristic and started listening to people in the adjoining neighborhoods. And what’s being built now will reflect our input and suggestions to a great degree.
I don’t have any illusions about H2H. The engineers and public liasions at DOT are making every effort to allow input at every turn, and to break it to us slowly and gently. We’re at least two years away from seeing drawings of anything specific about the proposed route and details of effects on existing neighborhoods and the land. But I know this project has the potential to ruin my life.
A little background…
Is it possible to explain Anchorage to someone not from here? It is a city of nearly 300,000 built on a land form called a bowl, but it’s flat rather than concave — more of a peninsula, perhaps? With a body of water, an inlet with two arms on the west side and a series of 20 or 30 rugged 4,000 to 10,000 ft tall peaks on its east border. All of the part in between is rapidly descending into kind of a free for all, a chaotic criss-crossing functions and a hapless smear of mini-mega malls, big boxes, car dealers, office towers and cookie cuttered ticky-tacky. That’s the bad part. The good part is there’s still a lot of scenery and wilderness and wildlife and wild life and everything else that anyone ever thought was good about the place — right inside the city. There are still only two ways out of town. The Seward Highway to the south is a two-lane series of dangerous curves running along the shore of Turnagain Arm at the base of the Chugach Mountains, passing a few very small towns including Girdwood [3,000 or so], the home of world class downhill skiing and dirty hippies [my kind of place except it’s sort of monocultural, while trying not to be]. About 80 miles out of town the road splits and one fork takes you a bit further into the seaside town of Seward, the other leading another 150 miles down the Kenai Peninsula past Kenai-Soldotna and on into Homer [“a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem”]. With some of the best recreational opportunities you can imagine, all along the way. The other route out takes you to points north, via the Glenn Highway. Starts out with eight lanes, down to six pretty quickly, then four, right past the bedroom community of Eagle River, then past the suburbs of the suburb and rocketing into the Mat-Su Valley and the upstart towns of Wasilla and Palmer. From there you can take a two-lane of a continuation of the Glenn to points further north and eventually drive into the Yukon Territory or down to Valdez, or stick with the arterial [also a two lane once clear of Wasilla] and trek the Parks Highway past Talkeetna, Willow, Denali and on up by Nenana and over the Ester Dome into Fairbanks. By then you’re 400 miles from the big town [did I mention that two thirds of the state lives in Anchorage?]. Either trip is incredible, and traffic congestion really isn’t an issue anywhere along the way, outside of Anchorage. In 37 years in Anchorage I’ve driven to Fairbanks maybe half a dozen times, and to Homer countless times. In fact, in some ways I wish I was sailing along the coast somewhere south of Ninilchik right now [except ten years ago it cost maybe $25 for gas for the trip and it would be closer to $100 today].
Eagle River and Girdwood are only 26 miles apart [as the raven flies, over the mountains] but are almost 60 apart by road, but H2H wouldn’t cut the mileage, just the driving time — slightly.
The Anchorage ends of the Seward and Glenn Highways dissipate onto urban arterials. This project would join the ends together into more limited access freeways. Mostly for the benefit of people commuting to work and back from Eagle River and Mat-Su, 98% or so of them in single occupant vehicles. Any way this is done will be devastating for some part of Anchorage [yet to be determined]. Fairview and Government Hill and possibly Mt View take the worst of it, in increased noise and intrusion of unsightly ramps, if the simplest route is selected. There’s less assurance this is the preferred route anymore, now that the Knik Arm Crossing seems DOA [this would have been a third way out of town, but was proposed to land in an unihabited area a ways south of Wasilla]. But any other route would rudely puncture the sanctity of the Chester Creek greenbelt, a rather wonderful stream basin running all the way down from the mountains and through town, and connected by narrow trails running its length and branching out to a nonmotorized trail network that’s without peer in any city of any size i’ve seen. Moose and bears and everything else roam its full length.
Overall, I think we should just chill out for a couple decades. Let people try to continue driving as traffic piles up and gas heads from four to ten bucks. Let’s figure out how to get around better on buses, bikes and trains. One of the H2H flyers I picked up tonight says that $518 million in 2005 dollars is budgeted for this project. And in 50 years, if there’s still cars on the road they will be going 10 mph during rush hour, whether or not we build this “essential” freeway connection.
images: my photos of the bowl of anchorage from Mt. Magnificent in Eagle Rver, July ’06 and from the air, May ’06.

intersection lighting debate continues

A task force composed of residents from Mt View and Russian Jack [Citizens Advisory Committee] led by Mt View resident Claire Noll has been working with the Alaska Dept of Transportation and Public Facilities for some time now, on a myriad of aspects of the intersection redesign, from pedestrian routes, signals, bike lanes, sidewalks — and primarily, the artistic treatments of the bridge and landscape design. With the idea of highlighting the site as a ‘gateway to Anchorage’ and showcasing the neighborhood’s arts and cultural assets and aspirations, among other broad goals.
Much that is positive has been accomplished through this process, but there has been a real stumbling block in the form of high mast lighting. These lights, with 80 ft tall poles and a cluster of lights at the top, accomplish the goal of lighting the highway and pedestrian ways but also spill a lot of light into the adjacent neighborhoods. An April 21 Beth Bragg article in the Anchorage Daily News laid out the controversy nicely. A few days later, ADN published this letter to the editor in response:

It’s not to late to fix problems with the Bragaw interchange
In response to the April 21 article “Bright lights, big Mountain View problem”:
Rick Feller is quoted as saying: “The project’s been bid, the parts have been ordered. It’s water under the bridge.” And the Daily News reported “Rick Feller of the state transportation department said it’s too late to do anything to stop them at the Bragaw interchange.”
This type of complacent attitude from a public servant is unacceptable. I’m currently a project manager and have done this for over 30 years now. I’ve owned and operated a general contracting firm and have yet to see one single project that didn’t have some significant problem. Fact is, projects are loaded with problems that are resolved each day.
For Feller to say this knowing full well that many people will be affected by this problem for the rest of their lives is appalling. So what if it’s designed, bought and currently being installed? Everyone makes mistakes, owners, designers and contractors alike. It’s never too late! Fix it!
It probably won’t be a simple or inexpensive fix, but taking care of the public that pays for such improvements must be the highest priority. If it physically can’t be done that is one thing, but to not want to be bothered because it’s “water under the bridge” is unacceptable. The problem must be corrected.
— Jack McCay

More recently, Mayor Begich weighed in, sending a letter to DOT/PF asking them to not use high mast lights on the project — calling it inconsistent with the city’s evolving ideas about lighting in general, and desire to protect neighborhoods and residents in particular.
I can’t wait to see how this all shakes out!