Spur Highway widening underway

A four-year Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities project to widen the Kenai Spur Highway between Kenai and Soldotna is underway now with clearing and grubbing.

Drivers on the Kenai Spur Highway between Eagle Rock Drive and Swires Road might notice workers — from Wasilla-based Wolverine Supply and its subcontractors — hydro-axing trees and moving brush alongside the road. This summer the workers will also move utility lines above and below ground away from the road, install some culverts, and cover some marshy roadside areas with dirt to compress the ground and allow it to settle over the winter before next summer’s work: surfacing and paving that section of highway to widen it from its present two lanes to five.

The following year a similar process will begin for the rest of the Spur Highway to Soldotna — clearing and utility relocation in summer 2020, followed by repaving and lane expansion in summer 2021.

Speaking at a Tuesday evening open house on the project at the Kenai Eagles building, DOT Project Manager Sean Holland said the expanded highway is meant to handle the traffic his agency projects between Kenai and Soldotna for the next 20 years. The new highway will have two lanes in either direction plus a turn lane in the center, which Holland said is an important new safety feature.

“The left-hand turn lane is the big addition to the facilities,” Holland said. “We see a higher-than-average accident rate through here, due largely to left-hand turns. People stop to make a left-hand turn and get hit from the rear. So the turn lane is going to going take those cars out of the traffic flow and should decrease that.”

For the first phase of the project — expanding the highway between Eagle Rock Drive and Swires Road in 2018 and 2019 — Holland said all the property to be used is inside the state’s existing right of way for the road, with the exception of a few driveways that DOT is shifting from the highway to nearby side roads. For the second phase in 2020 and 2021, DOT will have to buy pieces of six or seven properties, whose owners have all been notified, Holland said.

Holland said traffic control plans for next year’s paving haven’t been decided.

“There’s going to be disruption for sure, but we’re going to have enough room to move traffic back and forth and hopeful minimize that,” Holland said.

Reach Ben Boettger at bboettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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