Complete Streets for A Midtown City Center

May 3, 2018


Denali Street: Complete Street/Road Diet Alternative

Midtown, once at the southern extent of Anchorage, has surpassed Downtown as an employment center. This expansion occurred mainly during the 1970s and 1980s as major shopping destinations and financial institutions settled in Midtown. These commercial land uses coexist with older, lower income residential areas in this very car-centric district. As a result of this demographic and the encroachment of commercial land use, workers commute by car from other neighborhoods to work in Midtown.

In an effort to address this “job-housing” imbalance, the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) is taking steps to revitalize this area as a neighborhood with a high concentration of employers, civic and cultural institutions, and mid- to high-density housing. The Midtown Corridor Improvements: Denali Street Area project will update 1.5 miles of arterial roadway from car-centric to complete streets in an effort to make living, shopping, working and recreating in Midtown more attractive. This includes redesigning the roadway to complement a mix of users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

R&M is working with the MOA and leading planning, public involvement and engineering design for this effort. Under the MOA’s adopted Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) for Transportation Projects policy and development process, R&M analyzed road diet alternatives and improvements to seven major intersections. Issues identified include adding/separating pedestrian facilities, adding bicycle lanes and improving intersection operations.

“Midtown Anchorage is dominated by commercial buildings, big box stores and high volume thoroughfares, such as the couplets of Northern Lights Boulevard/Benson Boulevard and A Street/C Street,” said Marc Frutiger, PE, PTOE, R&M’s Project Manager and Senior Project Engineer. “The MOA is making inroads towards complete streets designed to accommodate today’s multi-modal user in an effort to increase livability within this area and complement plans for mixed-use development. This comes on the heels of the recently constructed Spenard Road improvements, which reallocated the right-of-way to accommodate a broad range of users.”

In addition to working closely with the MOA, R&M is working with the community to ensure improvements accommodate all users of this area.

“Thanks for this opportunity [to be involved],” said one open house attendee. “I am a bike commuter and recreationalist cyclist and I frequently use Denali St and E 36th Avenue for transportation purposes.”

Project Open House #1.

Innovative stakeholder involvement included door-to-door outreach, a multi-discipline alternatives charrette, an area business hosting project open houses, user group advocacy of the complete streets approach to design alternatives, geographic coverage social media ads, and a Design Study Report (DSR) preview presentation to the Traffic and Street Maintenance Departments.

The project is currently in the alternative analysis phase. Since the project includes Denali Street and 36th Avenue, the R&M team used the context sensitive approach to develop alternatives addressing the purpose and need of the different facilities. Early engagement with stakeholders resulted in the decision to focus the non-motorized improvements along Denali Street and retain 36th Avenue for vehicular travel. 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, all alternatives feature a road diet, bike lanes, and a combination of landscape buffers, pathways and sidewalks. It is at the major intersections where the alternatives differentiate themselves. Innovative designs such as bike boxes, roundabouts and signals with bicycle detection are being considered throughout the corridor. On 36th Avenue, alternatives focus on consistent pathway widths and resolving utility conflicts.

Current funding will carry the project to a recommended design alternative, presented in the Draft DSR scheduled for May 2018. Future funding will be necessary to finalize the DSR, complete the design and construct the improvements. At this time, no funding has been allocated for future phases.

Revitalizing the public infrastructure in this Midtown Corridor will encourage private investment in adjacent properties, which will support future housing that is needed to balance the current employment environment in this area. The Midtown Corridor Improvements project will help achieve the Midtown District’s land use goal of being a City Center – to make living, shopping, working and recreating in the area more attractive.

Project Website

R&M Staff Involved
Marc Frutiger, PE, PTOE; Joe Horazdovsky, EIT; Morgan Welch, PE; Taryn Oleson; Jason Osburn, PE; Van Le, AICP; Katie Chan; Hank Brinker, PLS, CFedS; Chad Weiler, PLS; David Carlson, EIT; David Brock, LSIT; Jessica Koloski, CAP; Jim Robar, PLS; Luke Boggess, GISP; Emily Bentti, CESCL; Jackie Yi; Bob Pintner, PE; Bill Preston, PLS, GISP; Brian Meyers, PLS, CFedS; Ryan Goentzel, PE; Lance DeBernardi, PE; Tim Grier, PE.

Project Team
Owner: Municipality of Anchorage
Civil Design Engineer: R&M Consultants, Inc.
Landscape Architect: Earthscape, LLC
Traffic and Illumination: Kinney Engineering, LLC
Utility Agreements: RRR, LLC