This past week, the Clarion reported on a number of road construction projects expected to begin in the next couple of months.
Our first reaction the sheer amount of construction — Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokesperson Shannon McCarthy described it as “a huge, huge construction season on the Kenai” — might be to wonder if we’ll be able to make it anywhere on the Kenai Peninsula this summer. In fact, projects are planned for every major roadway in the area — the Sterling Highway, the Kenai Spur Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road.
But the fact of the matter is that our roads need the work, and the added safety and better traffic flow that come with road improvements are long past due. If you’ve driven to Fairbanks or Glennallen in recent years, or even to Seward, you’ve no doubt noticed the improved roadways, with wider shoulders and better passing lanes — things that have been on our wish list on the Kenai Peninsula for years.
Beyond just improving roads on the central Kenai Peninsula, construction projects over the next couple of years should prove to be an economic boon for our community. Just some quick cocktail napkin math shows more than $123 million for Kenai Peninsula road projects in the next couple of seasons. That’s a big influx of cash for our local economy — and a lot of work to be had in an area where the economy has been feeling the effects of the state’s recession.
Improved transportation infrastructure leads to other business opportunities as well — better road access makes any community more business-friendly. As one of our Facebook commenters noted, “Construction smells like prosperity.”
Of course, road construction will undoubtedly cause some headaches this summer. While contractors will do their best to keep traffic moving, some delays are inevitable. So, we’ll offer the same advice we offer at the start of every construction season. Give yourself plenty of extra time to get anywhere. Check AlaskaNavigator.org and 511Alaska.gov for traffic delays and road conditions.
When you do get stuck in traffic, we offer this advice, paraphrased from Thomas Jefferson: When frustrated with slow traffic, count to 10; when very frustrated, count 100.
And then just think of how much nicer your drive will be when all the construction is done.