Kenai resident Tom Potton would like to see safer conditions on Beaver Loop Road for his children’s sake.
The 3.75-mile stretch of road that connects the Kenai Spur Highway to Bridge Access Road does not have a shoulder or bike lane, despite many bikers using the road as a connecting route during the summer, he said.
“My biggest concern is how to keep my kids safe and provide a bike path to connect the loop,” he said.
Potton was one of more than 50 residents from Beaver Loop Road that packed the Kenai council chambers for an open house Thursday to provide feedback on the Beaver Loop Road Improvement and Pathway Project. Representatives from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities along with consultants from Kinney Engineering shared their design plans, answered questions and received feedback from residents.
The proposed improvements include a widening of the road’s shoulders, raising the roadway surface, constructing a pathway off the road, replacing culverts and reconstructing ditches, according to a DOT&PF document. The current right of way is 100 feet with two 12-foot lanes with a deteriorating surface and no shoulders or pathway.
John Pekar, project engineer with Kinney Engineering, shared the scope of the plan and highlighted some of the challenges of the project.
More than 100 properties use Beaver Loop Road, and, with nine connecting roads, multiple driveways, culverts and utilities would need to be moved for the pathway to be constructed. As a result, many property owners could lose some frontage, based on what compromises are made, Pekar said.
“It is important to bring in the local perspective to any project,” he said. “This roadway, the residents see it everyday and know about the drainage issues.”
Pekar, along with Tom Schmid, DOT&PF project manager, suggested design changes like a reduction to the road shoulder from 4 feet to 2 feet, or a pathway reduction of 10 feet to 8 feet could be made to limit how much right of way space is needed for the project.
With the project still in the preliminary design and environmental review, Pekar encouraged everyone in attendance to submit written comments so the engineers can take everyone’s concern into consideration before plans are finalized next year. While public involvement is encouraged all the way up to construction in 2018, to ensure all possible factors are considered, written comments need to be turned in this summer by June 13.
The cost of the project, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, is estimated to cost $14 to $17 million, Pekar said.
Currently, DOT will oversee the development and construction of Beaver Loop Road, with work slated to begin in the summer of 2017. When the road is substantially completed, the City of Kenai will assume ownership and maintenance, based on a memorandum of understanding between the city and state.
Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said with construction of a new well on the other end of Beaver Loop Road the city has plans to expand a water transmission line down Beaver Loop Road to Bridge Access Road and connect the lines, which would provide quality water and strengthen the city water grid.
The Kenai Watershed Forum is also in the process of restoring three fish stream tributaries from Beaver Loop Road to the Kenai River. Pekar said this summer DOT&PF field workers will map out the wetlands and document how much would be impacted by the roadway development.
Chris Garcia, owner of Tanglewood Bed and Breakfast raised his concerns about the placement of the pathway, which is currently designed on the south side of the road, which would eat into his frontage property. With his home and business along the Kenai River next to Cunningham Park, Garcia said the riverside presents more obstacles for the pathway.
“I am 100 percent opposed to having the bike path on the south side,” he said during the open house. “It is a good scope, if you don’t live on the road.”
Garcia said more people would be affected if the pathway stayed on the south side and he is worried about how much space would be taken in front of the assisted living home.
Other residents raised concerns about speed and increased truck traffic that would come from a new roadway. Garcia, who was involved in an accident on Beaver Loop Road, said ever since the road was used as an alternative access for the construction of Kalifornsky Beach Road, more people have found the road and many speed through.
Beaver Loop Road resident Bunny Swan said while the road improvements are needed, the issue of losing frontage would affect a lot of people. Still, she liked what she heard at the meeting and said the engineers are willing to work with everyone.
“Progress is inevitable and it’s important everyone has to make concessions,” she said. “Everyone is willing to come to the table with some solutions. We are all for improvements, that’s why we’re here.”
Pekar said it was great to see such a large turnout for the open house because a lot of people were able to get information and add their input. He said some people prefer to comment in writing while others are more vocal at the meeting and want their voice heard.
“That’s why we ask for input in writing we get the extrovert and introvert perspective,” he said. “The more ways to receive input the more likely you are to hear all sides.”
Potton, who lives closer to the Kenai Spur near the Dolchuck Lane intersection, said he is not concerned if the project cuts into his property as long as he gets what he wants.
“Sure I want a bigger yard, but I also want to be able to give feedback into this process,” he said. “It is an imperative necessity to have a bike path away from the road for the safety of all kids. I am going to be there to support it because it is worth it for me. Then I can take my family out riding and enjoy it in the evenings.”
For more information on the project or submit comments visit: www.beaverlooproad.com
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org