Murkowski budget has money for Interior roads

Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Gov. Frank Murkowski's proposed capital budget includes transportation and improvement projects for the Interior, including big improvements to Fairbanks International Airport.

The proposed budget, which the governor introduced last week, contains millions of dollars for construction of a route linking Rampart to the road system. It also contains money to begin studying a possible Yukon River Highway, as well as tens of millions of dollars for improvements to the airport. Those improvements include renovating or replacing the terminal building.

The $1.36 billion capital budget, which allocates funds for infrastructure, was proposed by Murkowski on Wednesday along with his operating budget. Almost $1 billion of it comes from the federal government. Other major funding sources include income from the University of Alaska and the state general fund.

The budget, which has to be approved by the Legislature, includes $156 million for airports and $416.1 million for other transportation projects, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The Fairbanks International Airport is slated to receive more than $30 million, $20 million of which is to go toward resurfacing the airport's main runway. Airport manager Jim Fiorenzi, however, said that money may not come to pass, as the airport is facing logistical problems plotting out the project that may disqualify it from the federal grants accounted for in the budget.

In addition, the airport would receive $3.46 million to begin a study of the main terminal building.

One major Interior project funded in the budget is a 25-mile route linking the tiny village of Rampart to the Elliott Highway. The proposed budget contains $3.6 million to pay for the first phase of construction and another $450,000 for right of way acquisition for future phases of the project.

Rampart has about 20 year-round residents. It is currently linked to the highway by a dirt track passable only in the winter.

According to project manager Steve Henry, the first phase of the project would take place in 2004 and would involve building two bridges and a culvert to cross three creeks in the path of the planned road.

Then, a road would be constructed in 2005, with final improvement work done the next summer.

Many residents of Rampart have said they support the road, which Henry estimated would cost around $1 million per mile.

Murkowski's proposed budget also includes $4 million to fund village connector roads in the Upper Yukon area and a proposed Yukon River Highway, a route that could stretch from the Elliott Highway all the way west to Unalakleet or even to Nome.

The money would go toward preliminary studies of the feasibility of such a road or of smaller roads linking Yukon villages, including some work done in conjunction with the Tanana Chiefs Conference.

The capital budget includes a host of other projects for the Interior. Those include funding for sewer and water improvements for around a dozen Interior villages and towns.

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