The days of students walking in the dark without a sidewalk on Soldotna’s Poppy Lane will soon end.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly passed an ordinance Tuesday to appropriate $463,100 from a state grant that will go toward extending an existing lighted paved path from Kalifornsky Beach Road to the Kenai Peninsula College. The lighted path will extend .04 miles from Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School to Poppy Ridge Road.
Funding for the project had been requested more than three years ago as a joint effort from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, KPC and Alaska Christian College. After three attempts, the borough received the funding from the state capital budget in April.
KPC Director Gary Turner said the area has seen more foot traffic every day with students young and old walking and biking to and from school. The dark days of winter make it difficult to see pedestrians who walk alongside the road, he said.
“I have almost hit four students and I drive slow,” he said. “The residential area has become a high-density corridor.”
Six people testified in support of the borough passing the ordinance Tuesday.
KPC alumni Shauna Thornton said a lighted path would also address safety concerns by increasing the visibility of moose and bears that frequent the area. She said it is exciting to see the community involvement in the project and know it’s close to being a reality.
Tammy Willis, associate director of residence life at KPC read a letter from students that addressed the safety concerns of not having a sidewalk on Poppy Lane.
Superintendent Steve Atwater said he is anxious to see the pathway project extended because so many students from the neighborhood walk to the elementary school and the lighted path will make their travel safer.
Assembly member Wayne Ogle said planning for pathway extension has been a long time coming and the improvements are much needed in the area.
Kevin Lyon, borough capital projects director said the next step is to get the grant agreement in place. The project involves multiple entities from the college, the Alaska Department of Transportation as Kalifornsky Beach is a state right of way and the pathway is in Soldotna city limits. The borough is working with all the parties involved to come to an agreement on construction, ownership and maintenance of the path, he said.
After an agreement is reached, a schedule can be developed to plat the easement and then the project will go out to bid. The path will be construted along a section line where an easement from the college would not be required, he said.
The deadline for the borough to submit a grant agreement to the state is Nov. 25.
Assembly member Brent Johnson said the administration has had discussions with the colleges and school district and concerns have been resolved.
“All applicants want to see the walkway come to completion,” Johnson said. “It makes the best sense for everyone involved.”