State, borough may swap some roads

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Kenai Peninsula Borough are talking about swapping a few roads.

The roads on the Kenai Peninsula are a mixture of borough-maintained, city-maintained, state-maintained, federally maintained and unmaintained. For the most part, the borough’s roads are gravel, with only about 5 percent of the 630 miles of road being paved. The state maintains more of the major, paved roads like the Kenai Spur Highway.

Recently, the Department of Transportation approached the borough about exchanging some of the borough’s roads for state roads. One major road on that list is the Escape Route, a back road linking the neighborhoods of Nikiski to Kenai without having to take the Kenai Spur Highway.

The Escape Route is a long gravel road running between Marathon Road, which traverses the marsh lands north of Kenai, to Holt Lamplight Road. It got its name because it was originally built to serve as a backup route in case an explosion at one of the plants in the industrialized zone of Nikiski along the Kenai Spur Highway experience an explosion, making the area dangerous or the highway impassable.

The DOT is interested in taking the Escape Route over from the borough. DOT spokesperson Jill Reese said it’s a matter of equipment.

“It’s a maintenance question,” she said. “We are more geared for high speed plowing.”

She said the DOT is in discussion with the borough but there has not been a formal agreement yet.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce’s chief of staff John Quick said the borough is also discussing taking over a number of smaller roads from DOT near areas where the Road Service Area already has contractors in place.

“We’re trying to do something that would increase some efficiencies” he said. “I do know that it’ll be mutually beneficial to the people of the borough.”

If the discussions result in an agreement, it would go to the Road Service Area Board for approval and to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly before being finalized, he said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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