The Sterling Highway bridge over the Kenai River is scheduled for replacement. Construction on a temporary bridge is scheduled for the first of next month.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
After years of planning, waiting and delaying, the stars have aligned to allow the construction of the Kenai River Bridge. In less than two weeks, the long-awaited Kenai River bridge project is due to begin.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced this week that the construction of the two-lane temporary upstream bridge and utility work for the permanent bridge is set for March 1. The proposed construction schedule states that traffic will be moved to the temporary bridge by May 1.
Representatives, engineers and inspectors of the DOT and bid-winning contractor, Wilder Construction Co., visited the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday. The message at the meeting was that both groups are open to concerns of the public as the $28 million process moves along.
DOT and Wilder held an open house at the DOT temporary office in the Ischi Mall next to Dairy Queen on the Sterling Highway.
Chuck Swenor, Kenai River bridge project manager, said the proposed construction schedule is "kind of ambitious."
"There is a lot to be done here. We will work all winter long," he said.
Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey asked Swenor how the construction would effect traffic during the 2006 Arctic Winter Games in early March. Swenor said the two-lane temporary bridge should handle the heightened road traffic without difficulty.
"We'll try to keep this the lowest impact to travelers as we can," Swenor said.
Part of the plan to have limited negative impact on traffic will be to close the bridge periodically and "only when absolutely necessary."
"During construction, we will have to close the road about six times, each time for roughly six hours so we can install the girders for the new bridge," Swenor said, adding that these will be times when traffic is at its lowest levels.
"I imagine the bridge closings will be from like 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Things could change as they go along," he said.
The Kenai River also will need to be closed at some points throughout the process due to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, especially while the old bridge is being removed.
Once construction has begun, road commuters can find updates on when the bridge will be closed. There also will be warning buoys, flaggers and advanced notification at boat launch sites for boaters who might be passing through the area.
Listings of when the river and road closures will be posted on the bridge construction Web site, www.kenairiverbridge.com.
Swenor said the Web site will offer other useful information, as well.
"We will have a Web cam set up that users will be able to control themselves for 30 seconds or a minute at a time. You'll be able to spin it around in 360 degrees so you can check the traffic from Homer, K-Beach, Sterling Highway and the river," he said.
Carey said the three projects, sedimentation pond, Kalifornsky Beach intersection expansion and bridge construction projects will be a headache for the next two years, but people should remember that once completed, it will be a great change.
"We've been looking forward to this for 10 years or more, and we have to keep our eye on the prize," he said.
One concern the mayor has is how the schedules of the project's three facets will work together.
"They have not sat down to integrate their schedules yet, but they were very open and positive about doing that. I don't think there's any question it will be done," he said.
"I'm going say that about a month from now, they will have a set schedule with more detail."
Carey added that the more accurate the time table and communication, the more people will be tolerant of the construction.
He also was a bit surprised to find the plans he was sent by the state at the end of the summer were plans the bridge project officials had never seen.
"We were initially told the sidewalks would be 10 feet wide, but their plans showed 12-foot sidewalks. There were a couple of surprises like that," he said.
Regardless, Carey said he is glad the project will start soon.
"I was pleased that the sedimentation pond planners have gone out and talked to people in the area and told them what they will be doing. That's about as good of community service as you can provide," he said. "The most positive thing I heard was the idea of the tele-cam that anyone can hook on to. That's going to save us all hundreds of phone calls."
Carey attended both the chamber luncheon and DOT office open house and said the meetings were helpful.
"I would respectfully request they put their maps up on the Web site," Carey said.
The proposed construction schedule is as follows:
Start construction of temporary bridge, utility and electrical work begins
Initiate demolition of existing bridge
Construction of new bridge abutments begins;
Installation of sanitary sewer lift stations
Sedimentation basin construction
Begin new bridge construction
Traffic shifts to the new permanent bridge as removal of the temporary bridge begins.
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