FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Alaska State Representatives Tammie Wilson and Dave Talerico held a public meeting Friday evening for interior residents concerned about the Chena Hot Springs roundabouts project. The Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT), which is spearheading the project, was invited to give a demonstration and answer questions regarding the roundabouts.
The project aims to build two roundabouts on Chena Hot Springs Road at the intersections on either side of the Steese Highway overpass. It is 100% federally funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Safety Improvement Program.
The project has recently been the subject of heavy criticism on social media since the borough planning commission approved it last month. Sentiments expressed at the meeting included that roundabouts would not work and that they were a waste of taxpayer money.
These sentiments mirrored those in the results of a random sampling survey conducted by the DOT in March 2017.
According to documents provided by DOT, the survey, administered by Dittman Research, was conducted on a random sampling of residents in close proximity to the intersection. Results showed that only 50% of residents sampled were familiar with the project. Of the remainder who were familiar with it, 51% opposed it, while 41% supported it.
The most common reasons for opposition included cost, feeling that the project was unnecessary, disagreement with aspects of the design, and belief that the roundabouts would cause delays and accidents.
Of the 50% of residents who were unfamiliar with the project, however, 68% said that they would support it if provided more details about it.
Another document provided by the DOT shows that public opinion changed across all groups after safety benefits of the roundabouts were explained.
When asked for comment, Rep. Tammie Wilson said that she was opposed to the roundabouts and that she would move for the Alaska State Legislature to forbid DOT from using federal funds for the project in order to stop it.
However, according to Ryan Anderson, Northern Region Director of DOT, the project has already been greenlit by the Legislature and that DOT was moving forward with the roundabouts’ construction.
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