Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the current direction a driver must travel on the Petersen Way and Alaska Avenue one-way loop in Kenai. Currently, drivers must travel in the counter-clockwise direction on the road, however the city has decided to reverse that direction and drivers will soon travel in a clockwise direction around the loop.
Drivers traveling legally on the one-way road encircling the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church in Old Town Kenai currently go around in a counter-clockwise direction.
Future drivers, however, will go clockwise, following the road’s upcoming reversal.
The one-way loop, incorporating Alaska Avenue and Peterson way, branches from the intersection of Overland and Mission Avenues.
Current Kenai city council member Henry Knackstedt said it was upgraded from an informal gravel road to a paved city-maintained road in the early 90’s, when he worked on the upgrade as a design engineer for the consultant group Mike Tauriainen Engineers of Soldotna. Knackstedt said that old road was too narrow to become bidirectional, and so became Kenai’s first one-way street.
Knackstedt said he played a role in deciding the original direction of the road.
“It was kind of a mutual thing between myself and the public works director at the time… but our opinion, collectively, kind of went back and forth which way we’d go,” Knackstedt said.
“It didn’t really matter. So we just did it the way we did.”
The road’s direction is now being changed after an effort by the Kenai Historical Society, whose president, June Harris, said she sent a letter recommending the change to Kenai city manager Rick Koch “about a year ago.”
Harris said the reason for the change was aesthetic.
Drivers traveling the loop in the current counter-clockwise direction face the mouth of the Kenai River with a view of Mt. Redoubt at their backs.
“And that view is just spectacular,” Harris said. “By going around the opposite way you see it as you’re going around. Visitors will be able to go slowly and look at that view.”
The road provides access to the Russian Orthodox church, a scenic bluff overlook, a group of historic cabins, and the nearby replica of Fort Kenai.
In the summer it is frequented by tour buses.
Shilo Miller, owner of the nearby coffee house and restaurant Veronica’s Old Town Cafe, said that she expects the change in direction will make her business more noticeable to the tourists on those buses. With the current direction of the road, buses pass Veronica’s on the way to the bluff overlook and continue out of the loop after the bluff viewing without the possibility of stopping there.
When the direction is reversed, Veronica’s will be between the bluff overlook and the loop’s exit.
“If they have it the opposite way, you get to see the water and all that, and then you can walk through and get your coffee,” Miller said.
“I think it’s so much better if they do it that way.
Koch said he approved the change after consulting with the Kenai Police Department, but doesn’t know when it might take effect.
“I passed on the direction to Public Works, and I didn’t give them a firm date that it needs to be accomplished by. It’s just as they have time,” Koch said. “They’ll need to go out and look to see if we have signage that’s adequate, that can be moved around, or if new signage has to be purchased.”
In addition to changing the loop’s direction, the intersection joining it with Overland and Mission Avenues will be altered from a two-way to a four-way stop.
“Over the past several years we’ve had members of the traveling public say that they feel it would be a safer intersection if that was a four way stop,” Koch said. “And I agree.”
Miller said she will welcome the change, although it may come some with some slight initial difficulty.
“I think it’ll take a little while for people to actually get used to it, of course,” Miller said. “But to be honest with you, a lot of the tourists go that way anyway.”
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org