Engineers narrow choices for Cooper Landing bypass

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Engineers considering several new routes for the Sterling Highway through the bottleneck of the Cooper Landing area appear ready to favor some alternatives over others.

As yet, there has been no recommendation for a particular route. A draft analysis called the "Reasonable Alternatives Evaluation" falls short of recommending the reasonable range of alternatives, according to the Alaska Depart-ment of Transportation and Public Facilities. It does contain the most current technical information needed to make that determination.

Copies of the draft are available at www.sterlinghighway.net.

The various alternatives will be the focus of a DOT meeting, called a "listening post," today at the Kenai Princess Lodge between 1 and 7 p.m. Those interested in discussing ideas for the future of the highway are invited to drop by the lodge on Bean Creek Road.

Another meeting is scheduled in Anchorage on Thursday at the DOT conference room at 4111 Aviation Drive between 4 and 8 p.m.

Alternative highway routes must meet design criteria, according to the draft evaluation, including being able to meet traffic demands in 2025.

Among the things to be considered are a route's consistency with transportation needs, the cost, engineering feasibility and impact on the physical and social environment.

Also important to residents of the Cooper Landing community are minimizing the impacts to water quality and fish habitat, minimizing impact to the Kenai River, improving driver and pedestrian safety and maintaining the scenic quality of the corridor, according to state highway officials.

All the alternatives listed in lengthy document detailing the analysis of various routes fall between Mile Post 60 at the west end of the project area, and Mile 45, the east end of the project area.

Certain alternatives failed to meet the required level of service designers are looking for. Those are designated the Russian River, Cooper Creek, Kenai River and Kenai River Wall Variant alternatives. Environ-mental, aesthetic and transportation inadequacies were cited as reasons for rejecting those routes.

Alternatives getting mostly favorable nods included the Juneau Creek Wilderness Variant and the Juneau Creek Forest Variant, that cover roughly three miles of a 15-mile stretch toward the western end of the project area. Further east, two alternatives named the Juneau Creek Alternative and the Juneau Creek "F" Variant also meet most of the necessary criteria, though the analysis said building them would disturb currently undisturbed territory, likely disrupting wildlife and creating visual impacts.

All the Juneau Creek alternatives and the Kenai River Alternative lie north of the current highway, while the Russian River, Cooper Creek and Kenai River Wall Variant alternatives are south of the existing route.

Also along the north side are the so-called "G" Alternative and the "G" Alternative North Variant, small segments that would lead off from the current highway between Miles 51 and 52 and connect to the Juneau Creek Alternative. Both Gs got mixed reviews. There would be considerable visual impacts, and those routes would not solve access problems at the Russian River Camp-ground at Mile 52.8 nor the Sportsman's Lodge area at Mile 54.5.

Efforts to reach project managers for DOT and for the engineering firm HDR Alaska Inc. on Tuesday were unsuccessful.



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