Another roadblock hits U-Med road

Built in 1962, the Providence Alaska Medical Center operates as Alaska's largest hospital. There have been plans to develop more access points to combat the heavy traffic in the areas leading to both Providence and UAA campus. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

The congestion of traffic around Tudor, from East Northern Lights to Lake Otis Parkway, has had the city of Anchorage proposing a solution for years. However, due to differing priorities as Anchorage grows, the U-Med District Northern Access Project still lacks the funding it needs to proceed.

“When the mayoral office turned over to the current major, the current administration made it clear this was not a priority of theirs,” Stewart Osgood, project manager from DOWL, said. “It’s nothing now; it was a connection to provide relief to traffic congestion and circulation problems to the U-Med district.”

The project was proposed to alleviate the traffic by extending the road.

“The project is an extension of Elmore through Bragaw, connecting another north-south corridor between Providence Drive and Northern Lights Boulevard,” Sean Baski, project manager from the Department of Transportation, said.

Since 2003, the project was already in thought and analyzed to determine the best course to take in order to create a practical alleviation.

“Accordingly, the team examined potential connections between Elmendorf Air Force Base and the Glenn Highway to the north, and Tudor Road and Abbott Loop Road to the south. North of Tudor Road, there were two obvious choices: Boniface Parkway or Bragaw Street,” ZGF Architects, Inc. said in a U-Med road plan prepared in 2003. “The team concluded that either could satisfy regional transportation needs and that issues related to livability should determine the choice of routes.”

The confidence for the project is strong, but with no money, it still won’t be able to move forward.

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“The project was a state-funded project; money was provided to the municipality of Anchorage, and then the municipality of Anchorage then passed those funds over to the Department of Transportation, and then we were developing the project, sometime in 2015-2016. The city administration removed their support from the project and since it was their project, the Department of Transportation then archived the project. Now it’s archived and no longer being advanced,” Baski said.

Despite this, there is a clear demand for such an extension in the road.

“I think the project has a clear purpose and need, and benefits the U-Med district and solves problems that are real in the U-Med area,” Osgood said.

“The University of Alaska Anchorage, APU, the different medical organizations in the area all supported the project, so there’s definitely support for the project from the business side and then also from area residents, but there’s definitely some area residents that did not support it,” Baski said.

Though the project may have reached its end, Osgood believes the project is important enough to be considered once again in the future.

“I do believe that the project will be back at some point because there is a clear need for it. And if the U-Med district will continue to grow, they will need construction of a larger infrastructure,” Osgood said.

Plans like the U-Med District Northern Access Project are proposed in order to create a safer traffic pattern. The goal is to decrease the congestion in traffic, and as the area grows, the goal becomes more relevant. With the U-Med road project at its final end, this goal is still nowhere near completion.