Road construction to tie up central peninsula this summer

The snow is melting, the aspens are budding and the construction contractors are gearing up to work on the Kenai Peninsula’s roads.

This summer will bring a number of road improvement projects to the peninsula, including eight in the central peninsula and one in the Homer area. The scope of work ranges from preliminary work to clear brush and vegetation to major resurfacing and installation of traffic lights.

“It is going to be a huge, huge construction season on the Kenai,” said Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokesperson Shannon McCarthy.

Both major arteries to Kenai from Soldotna — Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Kenai Spur Highway — will be under construction this summer. So will three sections of the only highway to and from Anchorage, the Sterling Highway — one east of Sterling, one between Sterling and Soldotna and one between Soldotna and Kasilof.

DOT is still in the process of awarding bids for some of the contractors, who then coordinate the traffic control and work schedules. McCarthy said she didn’t have any information about possible traffic delays but recommended people check AlaskaNavigator.org and 511Alaska.gov before traveling to get a better idea of road projects. The contractors all have to consider the large influx in traffic to and from Kenai in July during the personal-use dipnet fishery, she said.

Kenai Spur Highway rehabilitation

By 2022 DOT plans for the entire Kenai Spur Highway between Kenai and Soldotna to have two lanes in each direction with a turn lane between. This summer should see the expansion’s first part — adding new lanes from Kenai’s Swires Road to Eagle Rock Drive — start in late May or early June. On Friday, project construction was awarded to the Wasilla-based contractor Wolverine Supply.

Most of this summer’s work will be moving utility lines between Swires Road and Eagle Rock Drive out from the existing road, while other tasks are planned for 2019’s construction season, said DOT Project Manager Sean Holland. Most work should take place on the sides of the present highway, making traffic disruption minimal, he said.

“We’ll be able to maintain traffic through the project the whole summer, and we’ll try to minimize disruption as much as we can,” Holland said. “…We’ll probably have some traffic patterns that move back and forth, depending on where we’re working in the road, but there’s quite a bit of room there so we should be able to maintain traffic pretty easily. There’ll be times when we’re putting pipes across or something like that when we may have to knock it down to one lane, so we’ll have delays there but for the most part we’ll be able to keep free-flowing traffic.”

Holland expects the Swires-Eagle Rock part of the project to finish by October 2019. Pre-construction work on the project’s next phase — continuing the expansion to around Sports Lake Road outside Soldotna — is also underway, with property purchases (not needed for the first part of the expansion) planned for the spring and its design now around 75 percent complete. Construction on that part of the project should start in spring 2020 and also last two years, Holland said.

DOT has $22.75 million budgeted for rehabilitating roughly six miles of road between Kenai and Soldotna.

Kalifornsky Beach Road

K-Beach Road will get a new surface and new traffic lights this year between the Bridge Access Road intersection and Soldotna. Contractor Knik Construction will repave the road and install traffic lights at the intersections of Ciechanski Road, Poppy Lane and Gaswell Road with some planned improvements to the traffic light at Bridge Access Road, said DOT project manager Alan Drake.

The approximately $8.7 million project is scheduled to conclude this fall. The work is expected to start mid-April, Drake said.

Sterling Highway Milepost 58–79

Contractor Granite Construction is entering its second year of working on the Sterling Highway between Skilak Lake Loop Road and the edge of Sterling. The $58.9 million project, which began last fall and will continue through 2018 and 2019, includes resurfacing the road, widening shoulders, adding passing lanes, installing a bridge at the East Fork of the Moose River for wildlife to pass beneath as well as a pedestrian path beneath the road to access the Skyline Trail.

Granite Construction declined to comment on plans for construction this year. Drake said the workers were planning to start up for the season this week.

Sterling Highway Mile 89.9 left turn lanes

Contractor Wolverine Supply will finish up the work started last year to add left turn lanes on the Sterling Highway for drivers turning onto Forest Lane and Jim Dahler Road between Soldotna and Sterling. The approximately $1.98 million project also includes plans to improve the highway shoulders and drainage as well as installing lighting.

Sterling Highway Milepost 97–118 shoulder widening

The project, which stretches south of Soldotna to Clam Gulch, includes widening the shoulders of the highway from 4 feet to 8 feet wide, adding rumble strips and including a safety edge on the pavement as well as a culvert replacement to improve fish passage through Crooked Creek. DOT expects the project to improve highway safety by reducing single-vehicle run off the road crashes, sideswipes and head-on collisions, among other traffic accidents.

DOT is still working through the paperwork to award a final contract but expects work to proceed this summer, Drake said. McCarthy said in the email that Granite Construction is the apparent low bidder on the project, at $29.1 million. The majority of the work is expected to be completed this year but the project will continue into 2019, Drake said.

Other projects

Contractors will be continuing work from 2017 on improving the Kenai Spur Highway between milepost 12–18, between McKinley Street and Commerce Avenue, including resurfacing, lighting, vegetation clearing, digouts, rumble strips, drainage, signs and striping.

Contractor QAP will continue its work from 2017 on the first mile of Funny River Road. The approximately $1.96 million project includes repaving about 4,000 feet of road, providing consistent shoulders on both sides of the road and improving drainage.

Two other projects on the peninsula are substantially complete, McCarthy said — work on the traffic signal at Soldotna’s Birch Street intersection with the Sterling Highway and improving pavement and culverts on East End Road in Homer.

Planned projects

Still other projects are in the works for the next several years. DOT is working on plans for road rehabilitation on the Sterling Highway between Anchor Point and Baycrest Hill leading into Homer. It’s a full rehabilitation project for the road and so has a higher level of environmental work, McCarthy said in an email. DOT expects it to go to construction in several years, she said.

Plans to widen and add a pedestrian path to Kenai’s Beaver Loop Road probably won’t be realized this year, either. DOT project manager Tom Schmid said the Beaver Looper construction will likely begin in 2019, subject to funding, and that DOT is presently finishing its design, permitting, and property acquisition phases.

Another project early in the works is a rehabilitation project on East End Road in Homer. DOT is also planning to replace the Quartz Creek bridge on Quartz Creek Road just outside Cooper Landing as well. The project is not ready to go to bid yet, though, so will not go to construction this summer, Drake said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com. Reach Ben Boettger at bboettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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