With spring, every Alaska driver's fancy turns toward better road conditions.
The state's fancy also has turned in that direction, according to Murph O'Brien, assistant to the director of the central region for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Nine projects, totaling almost $56 million, are in varying stages on DOT's "to do" list, although not all of them will be completed during the 2001 season.
Between Mileposts 8 and 18 of the Seward Highway, work being done by Herndon and Thompson includes resurfacing, widening for passing lanes and reconstructing the Grouse Creek Bridge. Price tag for the project is $14.7 million.
Catching the attention of Soldotna residents and business owners is Soldotna Urban Phase I.
"This will redo the Sterling Highway from Fred Meyer to Kobuk Street," said Stephen L. Bonebrake, city of Soldotna's public works director, of the $3.1 million project. "It's a state project and (the city of Soldotna) doesn't have a whole lot to do with it other than (the state) has always been willing to listen and work with the cities."
Toward that end, Bonebrake said he has spoken with representatives from DOT and Quality Asphalt, the low bidder on the one-mile project, to organize a public meeting for the first part of April to discuss the impact the work will have on Soldotna. The public works director said the state also is planning an open house once the project field office in place.
Phase II is currently in design, according to information supplied by O'Brien. It includes the rehabilitation and reconstruction of existing highway from approximately Milepost 94 to 97 and will widen the Kenai River Bridge to four lanes and add a storm drain bio-filtration pond. Costs are expected to reach $15.85 million.
Also in design is the Kenai Spur Unity Trail, "a pedestrian and bike path along Kenai Spur Highway that is supposed to connect Soldotna's and Kenai's existing pathways," said Keith Kornelis, public works manager for the city of Kenai. According to O'Brien, the trail will cost the state $2.8 million.
The long-awaited and much-needed repaving of the Kenai Spur Highway between Mileposts 10.5 and 22 is also on the state's list and carries a price tag of $4.5 million.
Reconditioning and paving will remove some jarring bumps from Anchor Point's North Fork Road and the Russian Village Road, which connects North Fork Road to the village of Nikolaevsk.
According to Dunia Martushev, a 27-year resident of Nikolaevsk, the village's 300 residents eagerly welcome news of DOT's plans to upgrade Russian Village Road. The road's steep hill combined with a sharp turn where it crosses the river have caused several vehicles, including the school bus, to have problems going to and from village.
"That's the only thing that scares me about going to town," Martushev said. "It scares everybody."
Carlton Kuhns, of Homer, is the principal of Nikolaevsk School.
"I'm on my third truck in eight years," Kuhns said of the heavy toll exacted by the rough roads. He estimated Russian Village Road services 450 to 500 people every day. "Paving would be great for everybody out here. The folks that live in the village are constantly facing some pretty adverse conditions getting out of the village onto the Sterling Highway. And employees have the same challenges coming in every day."
Also included in that $5.2 million package is work on Homer's Pioneer Avenue and both East and West Hill Roads. It is anticipated that the bid will be advertised in May.
O'Brien said federal funding helps boost the department's maintenance budget, which has "not seen many increases in the last several years." Paving, like that being planned for North Fork Road, reduces the need to grade road surfaces, thereby reducing maintenance costs, O'Brien said.
Alaska Road Builders is the successful bidder of a $5.2 million project that will recondition and pave Kachemak Bay Drive and Olson/Bunnell Avenue in Homer, as well as Anchor Point's Milo Fritz Road and the old Sterling Highway Loop south of Anchor Point. This project also includes some shoulder widening, drainage and other work necessary to preserve the existing road structure.
"That road is so bad," said Jacque Metzler, spokesperson for Anchor Point Senior Center, which is located on Milo Fritz Road. Metzler said driving to and from the Senior Center caused the tail pipe to fall off her truck. "It's horrible. We definitely need (the paving)."
Also located on Milo Fritz Road are Anchor Point's library, fire station, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10221 and a number of homes.
Information supplied by O'Brien indicated the design work on Homer's Bartlett Street from Pioneer Street to South Peninsula Hospital and 1,000 feet of Hohe Street from Fairview Avenue to the hospital is currently being addressed. Bid advertisement is anticipated for September, with construction to be done during fiscal year 2002. Price tag: $2.09 million.
Rounding out the list of projects for the peninsula is the $2.5 million phase two of improvements to Homer Airport. It will expand the aviation apron, construct a partial taxiway to run parallel to an existing one, provide a floatplane base with access and pave Taxiway B.
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