Summer road construction nears

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Monday, April 14, 2014 11:37pm
  • News

Several road construction projects on the Kenai Peninsula are planned for this summer, as are city road improvements in Soldotna and Kenai, while other projects are still a few years down the road.

Jill Reese, public information officer for the Alaska Department of Transportation central region, said pavement preservation has begun on sections of the Sterling and Seward highways and rehabilitation construction is scheduled to begin on East End Road in Homer this summer.

DOT will accept bids this month for pavement preservation from milepost 173 to 179 on the Sterling Highway near Ninilchick with work set to begin in June, she said. On the Seward Highway, four separate pavement projects are slated to begin this summer between Mile 54.5 to 75 near Turnagain Arm.

Reese said work on two stretches of East End Road outside of Homer is scheduled to begin this summer to address safety concerns on the narrow road. Crews will widen the road shoulders and add a separate multi-use pathway from Kachemak Drive to Waterman Road (milepost 3.75 to 5.16).

After securing rights-of-way with property owners for the past three years, DOT awarded a bid last December for the remainder of East End Road to McNeil Canyon, which will undergo a pave and shave, in which dips and bumps will be smoothed over to improve sight distance, she said. The estimated completion date for both phases is the end of October.

“Traffic will always be impacted by road construction, but we rarely ever totally close the roads,” she said. “We always provide a way around. We work on roads in most need of improvement first.”

Plans to expand the Sterling Highway from Sterling to Soldotna and the Kenai Spur Highway from Soldotna to Kenai are still in the design stages, Reese said. Funding for $20 million is available for the Spur project with a target date set for 2017. A traffic and safety analysis was concluded last December on the 12-mile stretch of the Sterling Highway between Sterling and Soldotna, one of four designated highway safety corridors in the state.

One improvement already made on the Sterling Highway is the digital speed limit signs placed between Sterling and Soldotna as part of Gov. Sean Parnell’s $5 million traffic safety initiative, for corridors that have the highest rate of accidents in the state, Reese said. The radar reader collects speed data for DOT studies and doesn’t share the report with the Alaska State Troopers, she said.

“Hopefully it will help drivers self-correct their speed and lead to fewer accidents,” she said.

In Soldotna, Lee Frey, public works project manager, said the city expects to complete five road projects this summer. Work was started on Sterling Street last fall and halted during the winter. Frey said the contractors are waiting for the roads to thaw out, but once work is resumed it should be one of the first projects completed, sometime in June.

“We set deadlines for when we would like to see the project done but it is up to the contractor when work can begin,” he said. “The mud is too soft now and it’s not very productive to work in muck.”

At its April 9 meeting, the Soldotna City Council passed an ordinance to appropriate a total of $750,000 in the street construction of North Aspen Drive. Council voted down the Special Assessment District project in January. With the city funds now available, Frey said the contract will go out to bid in the next couple months and construction completed in late summer, early fall.

Porcupine Court and Tyee Street will be paved sometime this summer, while Riverside Drive will be repaved, he said.

The City of Kenai has several streets listed as priorities for improvement. Sean Wedemeyer, public works and capital projects manager said via email the city is waiting to see if any money from the capital budget will be available to move forward with Magic Avenue, which is currently in the design process. First Street in Kenai is also in the design stage and on hold until funding is made available.

The Alaska State Senate passed the $2.2 billion for the capital budget, approximately $110 million less than fiscal year 2014. Senate Bill 119 now sits in the House of Representatives.

In February, the City of Kenai received a Special Assessment Petition from nine property owners for the proposed paving of VIP Drive. According to city code, the special assessment cost would be a 50/50 split between the property owners and city.

In a memo to city council, City Manager Rick Koch said the city does not have a funding source for the VIP project other than reserves from the general fund and recommended postponement until the city FY2015 budget is considered and after the state has finalized its capital budget.

As for a future road projects, Wedemeyer said the city is in the public information process for the Beaver Loop Road improvement and pathway design. Kinney Engineering LLC was awarded the bid and the city, along with the DOT will hold a public meeting on May 15 from 6-8 p.m.

Reese said the plan for the roadway is to resurface, restore and rehabilitate. The project is currently under environmental review and today is the last day for public comment.

Wedemeyer said the state wants the City of Kenai to take over maintenance of the 3.75-mile Beaver Loop Road. A document on the Beaver Loop Road plan is on the city’s website.

“When these transactions happen it is typical for a municipality to require upgrades to the road before taking ownership,” he said.

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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