Plans for bridge run into roadblock

Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2004

Soldotna's new $28 million bridge is too far behind schedule, that is.

Soldotna Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake announced Wednesday that the state of Alaska has informed him there's a good chance its upcoming Sterling Highway bridge replacement project will not begin this spring as planned.

"The bridge job has been delayed for as long as a year," Bonebrake told the Soldotna City Council.

Bonebrake said Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Project Engineer Judy Daugherty recently informed him the project, which was expected to begin this spring, likely won't be moving forward as soon as anticipated.

Bonebrake said it is his understanding that the state has failed to acquire all the necessary property in the right of way, meaning it can't proceed with construction as planned.

On Friday, a spokesperson for DOT said there has been a legal challenge regarding some property in the right of way, but the speculation that the project will be delayed for a year is premature.

"There are always delays with this kind of project," said Rob Campbell, a preconstruction engineer with DOT.

Campbell said the issue holding up construction currently is in the court system, and it's unknown how long the dispute will take to clear up.

"It could be resolved in time to begin construction this summer," Campbell said.

According to DOT Chief Bridge Engineer Rich Pratt, the state still fully intends to go forward with the plan to replace the existing two-lane Kenai River crossing with a new, five-lane span. However, the project has yet to proceed into the construction phase.

"The bridge plans are still in my office," Pratt said. "We're waiting."

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