(click to enlarge)
Just thought I'd upload this little diddy I made on how I envision Spenard one day looking like. I wouldn't so much call it fantasy as it is more of a reasonable prediction on Spenards future within the next 50 years. The stretch in question is that of the intersection with Benson north to Fireweed Lane; the same stretch under discussion by the city as it looks to reduce Spenard from four lanes to three. While the city looks to bring Spenard into the 21st century and more in line with its increasingly bohemian and bicycle oriented culture, there are several business owners who prefer to keep Spenard in the 1950s. The problem with todays Spenard is that there is no turn lane which results in cars weaving in and out of traffic, cars collecting up behind left turning cars, and no bicycle lanes. Combine the three and accidents are waiting to happen, which they have. Some business owners and others who are simply uneducated will claim that construction on Spenard will result in another Arctic Boulevard fiasco in which access to businesses will be hindered by road and lane closures. Interestingly, these critics of Arctic are silent on the finished product that construction on Arctic Blvd has brought about. Critics claimed that reducing Arctic to two lanes will result in more congestion. In fact the opposite is true. Also, all businesses along Arctic have survived. If anything, opposition to Spenard reconstruction seems to be more about partisanship than the street itself. Newly elected Mayor Dan Sullivan stated in an ADN interview shortly before he took office last year that he is open to experimenting with reordering the layout of the road to see how tests fare. Yet the posters with the cruel caricature of former Mayor Mark Begich still hang in the windows of businesses that want to keep Spenard in the 50s.
While the city's current plans call for Spenard to go from four lanes to three (with a turn lane), my proposal seeks to narrow Spenard down to two lanes flat. In my plans I also added an intersection (a raised intersection at that). As we speak, the city is in the process of realigning one of the side streets that feed into Spenard so as to align with the opposite side street that leads to the Bear Tooth Theater. With this construction work happening, Spenard will finally have side streets that meet and make a four-way intersection possible. I decided to go ahead and add stop signs in one scenario, and a stoplight in the other for this future intersection. I also decided to add colored bike lanes, which have become more common in cities around the world along with bicycle boxes, which the city has been exploring. Bicycle boxes allow bikers to wait at a stoplight directly in front of motorists so as to be visible and not runned over by vehicles making right turns. Some may see narrowing Spenard down to two lanes as extreme -- but it's not. Once upon a time 4th Avenue in Downtown was four lanes. Today, at two lanes and a 25 mph speed limit, 4th Avenue is not going through any armageddon as some Spenard business owners predict will happen to them. Lets also not forget that half of Spenard is already at two lanes anyways. In this already existent two lane section of Spenard, Gwennies still serves huge breakfast plates to tourists, the Harley Davidson shop has doubled in size, one hotel expanded, two national chain hotels were built, and a Village Inn restaurant along with a few other businesses have opened. Just don't expect Spenard reconstruction opponents to remind you of that.
btw I should note that not all business owners along Spenard are opposed to the project. Among the major supporters of reconstruction is the owner of REI, the largest business in Spenard.