Open letter to Gov. Knowles about North Road conditions
Last spring several members of the Nikiski community revived the North Peninsula Community Council. Many questions have come before the council. The council has taken the time to research each question. I researched the question of "What happened to the reopening of the maintenance station and improved maintenance of the North Road?"
In talking to George Church, the state Department of Transportation manager in Soldotna, I now have two concerns instead of just the maintenance issue to bring to your attention.
What I found out appalls me. We need to be very thankful that as of this date the winter snowfall has been far below average. Not only is the Nikiski maintenance station understaffed for adequate snow removal, the Kenai Peninsula does not have the backup needed in case of equipment failure. Mr. Church has reported that a plow truck was being transferred to the peninsula from the Mat-Su area to replace the truck from Nikiski that was wrecked in Ninilchik after it was pulled from that station in the reported cost/savings road maintenance plan of 1999 that eliminated our facility and reduced the effectiveness of the road crew's response time during the winter months.
As of this date, it has not been returned to the Nikiski area. We have one grader, one sander/plow truck, two maintenance workers and a fill-in with some overtime allowable. These maintenance workers should be commended. They are working on 140 road miles that have long surpassed the average life of any road without major rebuilding.
There is an increase in accidents due to the poor condition of the state roads in the Nikiski area. With a poor response time to snow and ice due to the scheduling of road maintenance in our area, we also have an increase in the ability of our community to react to those accidents.
In your letter to Sen. Jerry Ward dated April 7, 2000, you stated that "There is no document labeled 'Management Plan' for the Nikiski area snow removal nor is there a requirement to have one." Why do you not require your department to have management plans so that accountability can be traced? I am sure that the maintenance workers are tired of taking the flak for poor management decisions.
The North Road was paved in stages in 1967 with an average life span of 20 years. Since that time the road has seen three seal coats. This last summer a contact was awarded to Alaska Road Builders for another overlay. Everyone that I have talked to in the community says that they understood that the North Road would be rebuilt. When I reported that I understood that the contract had been awarded for an overlay without even reaming out the potholes, I was told that that couldn't be because "it is a standard engineering practice to ream out the potholes."
In talking to Alaska Road Builders, I learned that the state of Alaska had awarded the contract to overlay the "North Road" from the light at Bridge Access to just past the plants (Agrium, Phillips Petroleum, Tesoro and the new BP Gas to Liquids project) at about Mile 22. This overlay does not include reaming out the potholes.
If that was part of the project they would be tearing up the whole road because there are so many potholes. When I asked about the expected life span of this project I was told that major fractures would start showing up within a year. With maintenance, this project could last 10 to 15 years.
I asked about the machine that breaks up the existing pavement, chews it up and relays it. Asking if this was a cost-effective procedure and what the expected life span of such a project would be. The answer was that the cost would be about 33 percent more and extend the life span of the road out to 20 years with lower maintenance costs. The dollars to rebuild will be saved from the maintenance budget in future years.
It is not too late to correct these very poor decisions. The last road counts available from 1999 show that we not only have the traffic to justify a responsible reaction. With a population of over 4,500, three schools and all of the peninsula's major oil companies having facilities located on the North Road, our roads will have increasing traffic in the future.
Soldotna resident favors proposal to put bridge across Turnagain Arm
I wish to express my support for the proposal to construct the Turnagain Arm Crossing. I believe there is a valid need and many reasons to have an alternate route to provide access to and from the Kenai Peninsula and the other areas of Southcentral Alaska.
There is a proven history, that there has been many traffic disruptions caused mainly due to adverse weather conditions such as high winds, deep snows, avalanches, etc.
The proposed Turnagain Arm Crossing will provide a much shorter distance, by roughly an average of 80 miles, and will not be as influenced by the above listed areas of adverse weather conditions. These benefits will be gains that affect the vast majority of the Kenai Peninsula residents of such areas as Homer, Anchor Point, Ninilchik, Kasilof, Soldotna, Kenai, Nikiski, Sterling, Funny River, etc.
Although areas of the eastern part of the Kenai Peninsula, such as Seward, Crown Point, Moose Pass, Cooper Landing, etc., will not have the benefit of a much shorter route, they will have an alternative choice in times of the adverse weather conditions.
Another side benefit of the proposed Turnagain Arm Crossing would be the lesser need for the controversial Kenai River Bridge crossing connecting the Sterling and Funny River areas.
The controversy lies within the question as to the adverse habitat effects to the Kenai River, which is recognized as one of the most valuable renewable resources of the Kenai Peninsula and Alaska.
I appreciate any consideration and support that you believe is valid for this proposed Turnagain Arm Crossing.
Story about Florida class for seniors raises eyebrows
I read the article appearing on page seven of the Tuesday Clarion twice before it finally came to me why the Clarion, in Alaska, would be using nearly a half page of valuable newsprint to tell us about a college class at the University of South Florida in Tampa where there are no tests, no homework, no term papers and no tuition: the only requirement is to be at least 60.
Being only a few months away from the same age, I finally understood. In the part of the state which helped put the "da" back in Florida, they are holding classes early on how to read ballots or perhaps how to recount. Thank you, editor, for reassuring us that Florida will be ready for the next election. It was much more interesting than stale, old news about our own state or community.
Phil N. Nash
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