Even road builders get a long weekend. While miles and miles of roads on the Kenai Peninsula are under reconstruction this summer, most work will cease come this afternoon to accommodate the expected flood of Memorial Day weekend visitors.
One mile of the Sterling Highway, from East Redoubt Avenue to Kobuk Street, is undergoing a complete repaving with all new gutters and curbs, much of which has already been installed. But to do that, parts of each outside lane were removed. That means four lanes of holiday traffic will be squeezed into little more than two. Simple math would indicate that's almost twice as much traffic congestion.
But Chuck Swenor, project engineer for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said there are temporary stripes on the road, and there is still room for four traffic lanes.
"But people still shy away from the edge. That's human nature," he said.
He said the contractor, Coalaska/Quality Asphalt Paving, will be off the road at 3 p.m. today and won't return until 7 a.m. Tuesday.
"There will be some work on the project, but it will all be off the shoulders, and there will be no impact on the traffic," Swenor said.
Despite the ongoing work through town, nobody has complained yet, according to Kim Mariman, visitor services manager for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.
"We've had a lot of visitors in here already and no one has complained one bit," she said.
Mariman does not recommend anyone stay home for fear of traffic problems.
She said the Homestead Museum in Soldotna opens for the season this weekend, and it has new additions. She also said the fish count in the Kenai River is up from last year, all the shops on the Homer Spit are now open, and there's the Fish Odyssey show in Kenai.
"This is the beginning of summer," she said. "We're all open and ready to go."
The Kenai Spur Highway work, from Mile 10.6 to 22, roughly from the intersection of Bridge Access Road in Kenai to past the refineries in Nikiski, will be even less of a problem, according to DOT project manager Gary Walklin.
"If we're working at all, it's off the roadway," Walklin said. "We are not planning on having any construction on the roadway over the Memorial Day weekend."
The crews may be laying traffic signal interconnection lines on Saturday, but that is well off the road, he added.
Walklin said the project to resurface the Spur between Mile 22 and Halbouty Road is ready to go out to bid in early June, but until then, the road to Captain Cook State Park will be as rough as ever this weekend.
Other projects on the Kenai Peninsula should not contribute to traffic problems over the weekend. They include 10 miles of road construction on the Seward Highway from Milepost 8 to 18, through Grouse Creek Canyon, and bridge construction at the Placer River at Mile 77.9 of the Seward. Work on Exit Glacier Road near Seward is also ongoing but will not interfere with traffic over the weekend.
Swenor had a few words for anyone who wants to be a happy camper this first weekend of summer: "Just be careful of your speed and obey the signs," Swenor said. "Pretty much everything will be open, so people shouldn't really have any difficulty."
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