Trail, road in line for fed dollars

Posted: Monday, February 17, 2003

The proposed Kenai Coastal Trail and erosion control project, as well as a project to rebuild and pave one mile of Jones Road in Soldotna to ease safety concerns, are included in a fiscal year 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill currently working its way through Congress.

The $396 billion spending package emerged last Wednesday from a conference committee where Republican congressional lawmakers worked out differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.

The measure includes Federal Highway Administration grants of $500,000 for the coastal trail project and another $1 million for Jones Road.

The proposed trail and erosion project would run for about a mile along the base of the Kenai bluffs beginning at Kenai Dunes Park at the mouth of the Kenai River to a new trailhead and parking area just off Bridge Access Road.

It would create a scenic walkway within the city and provide safe beach access down the bluff at several locations.

A planned bridge would cross an estuary. Ramps and rest areas along the trail would provide access to people with disabilities and opportunities for wildlife viewing. The project would include efforts to control erosion along the bluff.

Kenai City Manager Linda Snow said the city's funding request for 2003 is $10 million needed for design and construction, but she was nevertheless pleased that there is some money being proposed in the bill.

"This is good news," she said.

The $500,000 for the trail contained in the bill would come through the Federal Highway Administration. Further funding is included in an Energy and Water Appropriations Bill and would come through the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

Approximately $315,000 was appropriated in last year's federal budget, and another $185,000 is in the current budget, according to the Corps.

The Jones Road project in Soldotna, meanwhile, would use the proposed $1 million grant to relieve road maintenance and safety issues in the area southwest of Kalifornsky Beach Road. According to Gary Davis, Kenai Peninsula Borough roads director, the poorly built, state-maintained road is a major collector for several subdivisions and a gravel pit.

It has an unregulated four-way intersection that is considered dangerous, Davis said.

The gravel pit near the end of the road creates heavy truck traffic and dust problems and breaks up badly in the spring.

The two appropriations for the central peninsula area were announced late last month in a press release from Sen. Ted Stevens at the time the Senate passed its version of the bill.

However, in the case of the Jones Road appropriation, there appeared to be some confusion in Washing-ton, D.C., about which road actually was in line for the money.

Stevens' press release said $1 million was in the bill for the "Jones Stub Road" project, but then added in parentheses the words "Nikiski emergency access route."

They are two different roads.

Asked about the discrepancy, a Stevens aide, Melanie Alvord, said she would look into it and research the actual language in the bill itself. However, late Wednesday, Alvord said the bill contained $1 million for "Kenai Peninsula Borough Road Improvements" to come through the National Corridor and Border Infrastructure Program.

"It is my understanding that the $1 million for the Kenai road improvements is for the item you asked about (Jones Road)," she said.

Davis said his office had been chasing down an answer to the confusing notification regarding Jones Road as well, but had yet to get an answer. Likewise, Ed Oberts, assistant to Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, said he had been seeking confirmation as to which project the $1 million would belong.

Other funding for Alaska contained in the bill would pay for safety improvements at airports, such as rural runway lights, and money for the Alaska Railroad and U.S. Coast Guard operations.

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