Rapidly Growing West Anchorage Neighborhood Gets Much Needed Infrastructure Improvements

October 10, 2016
West Dimond Boulevard Upgrade Project

The R&M project team at the project site during the Mayor’s construction season kickoff press conference on May 10.

Anchorage’s Sand Lake area is finally getting some much needed infrastructure upgrades. The final phase of the West Dimond Boulevard Upgrade project, which has been the works for the past 11 years, began construction this past May.

In 2005, the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) and R&M Consultants, Inc. (R&M) commenced design work on this project. This stretch of roadway, between its western terminus and Sand Lake Road, represented the last largely unimproved segment of Dimond Boulevard. Initially, upgrades to bring the road up to current municipal standards would occur to the entire stretch of road from Jodhpur Street to Sand Lake Road. However, limited funding and the desire of the community resulted in a phased approach, with the eastern segment (Westpark Drive to Sand Lake Road) currently in the final stages of construction.

While considered rural by some, this area of West Anchorage has experience rapid growth in recent years. One major subdivision in the area is nearing completion, while several others are commencing construction or actively planning. This portion of West Dimond Boulevard also provides a secondary entrance to Kincaid Park, which has grown into a major recreational destination for Anchorage residents and visitors since the time the road was originally built in the late 1950s. The resulting increase in traffic was one reason for the improvements. Another reason was the desire among area residents for the addition of previously non-existent bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Limited sight distance at skewed intersections, lack of drainage and rampant speeding rounded out the list of needs this project set out to solve.

Marc Frutiger, a Senior Project Engineer with R&M and Engineer of Record for the West Dimond Boulevard Upgrade project, has been a part of this project since its early phases. “Working alongside the Municipality to make this project a reality has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional career,” said Marc. “Meeting with stakeholders, working through challenging engineering problems and watching the project being constructed, knowing it will serve the community for years to come, are some of the many reasons I go to work every day with a smile on my face.”

Notable Project Features

The R&M team followed the established Context Sensitive Solutions/Context Sensitive Design (CSS/CSD) approach throughout the project study and design. Many challenges came to light as a result and the project team devised innovative solutions to solve them. Most notably:

Access Changes
Driveways from several private properties converged on to the proposed roundabouts. To avoid delay and safety problems associated with this, the design team worked side-by-side with property owners to analyze countless alternatives to improve their access. The final agreed upon solution was a combination of individual driveways, wide curb cuts for easy on-off, off-site turn around areas and landscaping to expedite revegetation.

Lack of a receiving storm drain system or easily accessible waterbody, and flanked by private property on all sides, forced the design team to get creative. Final construction documents included an underground detention/infiltration system, complete with two-tier storm water treatment, access for performance monitoring and tools/training for the maintenance department. Using this kind of Green Infrastructure technology on a roadway project is a first for Anchorage.

The project features two single-lane roundabouts to accommodate increasing traffic volumes, provide traffic calming, and improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. To minimize property and utility impacts, avoid challenging topography and enhance drivers’ experience, the team selected elliptically shaped roundabouts. Using the CSS/CSD approach, the two roundabouts were designed for different design vehicles, different approach speeds and other variances based on the respective agency’s standards (MOA and DOT&PF). Bicycle facilities included on and off ramps ahead/beyond the roundabout for cyclists less comfortable traversing the roundabout. Finally, the roundabouts feature an inward sloping circulatory roadway to maximize traction during the winter months.

When the project was brought before the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC), a necessary step in the CSS process, the team was shocked when the commission issued their denial. Without missing a beat, R&M developed the “Design Study Report (DSR) Matrix”, which identifies all applicable plans and compares them (in detail) to the implementation being proposed on the project. Vindication came at the next step in the CSS process in the form of resounding support from the Urban Design Commission (UDC).

Over the decade-long project development process, many R&M employees contributed to this project. Current R&M team members include:

Marc Frutiger, Ryan Goentzel, Tim Grier, Morgan Welch, Kristi McLean, Van Le, Taryn Oleson, Don Porter, Charlie Riddle, Bob Pintner, Bill Preston, Len Story, Hank Brinker, Mike Adams, Orlan Paraoan, Aaron Banks, Ryan McCormick, Patrick Hewlett, Jeremiah Fisher, Dave Hale, Nicole Knox, Jake Austin, Jason Osburn, Emery Schramm, Jessica Koloski, Irene Turletes, Rori Van Nortwick, Matt Majoros, Kevin Robar, Evan Griffith, Mike Wariner, Luke Boggess, Hans Arnett, Matt Griffin, Abe Schmidt, Ben Holmstrom, Chad Weiler, Joe Horazdovsky, Tom Garrett, Ali Bowles, Chris Black, Katie Chan, Dave Carlson, Jackie Yi, Corey Prewett

This project is a classic example of the projects the R&M team enjoys most – those that make a difference in the everyday lives of Alaskans.

Project Team
Owner: Municipality of Anchorage
Design: R&M Consultants, Inc.
Construction: Quality Asphalt Paving (QAP) General Contractors