Transforming Midtown Anchorage: Complete Streets for a Mixed-Use City Center

by Marc Frutiger, PE, PTOE and Van Le, AICP

How does a city create a safer, more walkable, healthier community? Complete streets. Complete streets are streets designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transportation users of all ages and abilities.

A complete streets approach to road redevelopment has shown to create more livable communities by reducing traffic speed and creating a safer pedestrian environment. It also creates more options for users to get to where they need to go, making it easier and safer to commute by foot, bike or bus. This in turn lowers road congestion, improves air quality and impacts overall quality of life, as well as increases economic benefits to adjacent businesses.

One area in Anchorage getting a complete streets overhaul is Midtown. This area is Anchorage’s busiest employment center and a very car-centric district, with the majority of the workforce commuting by car from other neighborhoods to work in Midtown. To encourage mixed-use development and create a neighborhood with a mix of employers, civic and cultural institutions, and mid- to high-density housing, the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) is working to revitalize this area and create a City Center where people can live, shop, work and play.

One of the roadways being transformed from a car-centric to complete street roadway as part of this effort is Denali Street, located right in the heart of Midtown. R&M, who is responsible for design of the road improvements, developed several alternatives by working closely with the MOA and the community. The focus is on transforming Denali Street using the complete streets approach. The east-west bicycle and pedestrian connectivity will be accomplished by a separate project, the West 32nd Avenue and East 33rd Avenue Upgrade.

For Denali Street, the preferred alternative features a road diet along most segments, bike lanes, and a combination of landscape buffers, pathways and sidewalks to expand the offerings for non-motorized users of all ages and abilities. This innovation continues at the major intersections: the preferred alternative features a single-lane roundabout at 40th Avenue, channelized right turns at 36th Avenue, bike boxes and green ingress/egress lanes at Calais Drive, and bike detection at the signalized intersections.

The complete streets transformation of this Midtown corridor will jumpstart the revitalization of this neighborhood, helping turn Midtown Anchorage into a City Center where people can live, shop, work and play. And, in turn, encourage development of complete streets throughout Anchorage.

More information and updates on the Denali Midtown Corridor Improvements project can be found at www.midtownimprovementsdenali.com.

Marc Frutiger, PE, PTOE is the Project Manager for the Midtown Corridor Improvements – Denali Street Area project. Marc has 14 years of experience in transportation design, spanning from Alaska to Wyoming, and most recently in his native country of Switzerland. His experience over the past few years has focused on project management and design for surface transportation, drainage and utility projects, complementing his well-rounded design experience on airport, site and waterfront facilities. Marc takes a Context Sensitive approach to all of his projects, interacting collaboratively with the client and local stakeholders to ensure projects meet contract requirements and community needs.

Van Le, AICP is a Planner specializing in policy research and analysis, public involvement and land use planning. She has 16 years of experience working on projects ranging from regional transportation plans and comprehensive plans to area master plans and downtown development plans. Van offers a range of planning experience in both private sector consulting and public sector planning, and has been involved in all aspects of local and regional planning including site selection land use studies, site plan applications for capital projects such as public facilities, and parks and recreation planning. She has additional experience in public involvement, including open communication style workshops and open houses to address controversial issues.