Linda Barnett has been riding the People Mover from Eagle River into downtown Anchorage for twenty years. Now, if the mayor approves the new transportation plan for municipal buses, Barnett will see the last bus leave Eagle River in August.
Determined to fight for continued bus service, Barnett and a group of bus riders looked for support from local community councils. Wednesday she attended the Eagle River Valley Community Council (EEVCC) and on Thursday, she attended the Eagle River Community Council (ERCC). Barnett and her group have already met with People Mover staff, the Mayor’s staff and other bus commuters.
Barnett doesn’t believe that Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has received all the facts. She wants the mayor to know that of the 160 people whose signatures – primarily commuters – she and her fellow riders asked to sign a letter opposing the Municipality’s plan to end Route 102, only one person had been aware of the survey conducted by People Mover to evaluate the use of Route 102.
If the mayor signs the plan, the current Route 102 servicing Chugiak and Eagle River Park and Ride stops will be discontinued. In its place will be two 13-passenger vans running separate schedules. The vans will only pick up people in Eagle River. Any destinations north of the Eagle River Transit center will no longer receive service.
“There will be people that won’t be able to get on (the van),” Barnett said, citing that more than 13 people will be waiting at the bus stop.
According to People Mover, the estimated yearly cost of service for Route 102 is $1.1 million. The estimated cost of service for the Eagle River Connect is an additional $200,000.
Creating higher frequency is met by adding buses to the same routes.
Jim Stouffer has taken the bus from Chugiak since 1987 when there were four bus routes in the area. He has watched the bus system shrink, taking ridership with it.
“They’re taking the same budget, cutting out Chugiak-Eagle River, just to give fifteen minute wait times to downtown routes,” Stouffer said.
Transit Talks – meetings regarding transforming the People Mover system – were held from April to December 2016 around Anchorage. When the People Mover staff arrived in Eagle River in late fall, they were met with over 50 people who demanded answers. The first plan the Eagle River group saw had vans taking them to the Muldoon Transit Station. Barnett knows now that that move alone showed that the study had not looked considered the routine of CER stakeholders.
The planners eventually – on the strong advice of those in the room – moved the route back to downtown.
An email from People Mover staff member Bart Rudolph followed up on the Nov. 16 meeting in Eagle River. The email said consumer-paid vanpooling with subsidy incentives, formerly only serving JBER and the Valley, would be’ an option. Rudolph provided a website for more information: //www.muni.org/departments/transit/sharearide/Pages/default.aspx.
Both ERCC and EVCC unanimously passed a motion supporting maintaining current bus routes and opposing any plan that does not give bus service to Chugiak and Eagle River.
Platting problems at the Lowe Fire Station
Michelle Ritter from DOWL explained the process of replatting a small parcel of land by the Bill Lowe Fire Station near Fire Lake in order to create usable space and to complete the landscaping requirements.
Ritter said, “The required landscaping is actually in the DOT right-of-way, and because of this, the building is having difficulty completing it’s final certification of the design requirements met.”
Dealing with the small parcel requires a sequential process for securing the land currently belonging to Department of Natural Resources. It is not platted. According to land use rules, only platted land can be sold or transferred. After the platting process is complete, the land will be conveyed to the Municipality and building certification plans can be completed.
Potential Dog Park in Eagle River
The Eagle River Parks and Recreation Board is discussing options for a designated dog park near the tennis courts on Fire House Lane. According to Eagle River Parks and Rec board member Brian Fey, a community survey shows nearly 75% support for the plan, with about 13% concerned or opposed to the plan. Fey says it is a walking destination park, so vehicle parking will not be a key part of the design. While the support was clear, some residents at the council meeting voiced concern over water quality protection and assuring people pick up after their pets.
Rezoning land near Powder Ridge developments
Andre Spinell spoke with ERCC about his company’s request to rezone land, now zoned as RO near the Powder Ridge subdivisions to R1. The rezone would change the use from multiple uses to residential homes.
Spinell plans on building 20- 23 homes using existing Powder Ridge roads for access. The new roads will be publically dedicated to allow for municipal maintenance.
According to Spinell, Powder Ridge Home Owners support the plan as long as the homes being constructed are similar to the current homes.
“I plan to build the same [type homes] I’m already building in Powder Ridge,” Spinell said. “It will be very comparable to Powder Ridge.”
One resident voiced concerned about the potential loss of trees, exposing homes to the noise of the highway. Spinell said he hoped to maintain a vegetation buffer, but won’t know until after the engineering and topography assessments are completed what that would look like.
Spinell hopes to be ready to start construction next spring after completing the permitting processes, with the first step being his visit to the ERCC. Spinell offered his email and invited communication from the council members. Andre@spinellhomes.com.
Candidates take their case to Community Councils
Candidates for Anchorage Assembly and School Board visited community councils as the April 4 Municipal election draws near. School Board candidates Dave Donely and James Smallwood, both running for School Board seat C, attended ERVCC and Birchwood Community Councils.
Anchorage Assembly District 2 candidates also made the rounds last week. John Brassell spoke to the Birchwood and ERCC meetings, Fred Dyson spoke to the ERVCC and Birchwood Community Councils and Gretchen Wehmhoff spoke to the ERVCC and ERCC meetings.
All Assembly candidates have been invited to participate in the Candidate Forum on March 20 at the Chugiak Senior Center. The forum, hosted by the ECHO, will include students from local high schools as moderators.
Editor’s Note: Gretchen Wehmhoff is a long-time Chugiak resident and former teacher at Chugiak High School where she had the “fun” of having my oldest child in her classroom. God bless her.