Road work tries drivers' patience

Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2001

This summer, for many Kenai Peninsula drivers, there is just no getting around major road construction.

The Sterling Highway through downtown Soldotna and the Kenai Spur Highway between Kenai and Nikiski are torn up, causing traffic delays and raising questions in the community.

n Kenai Spur Highway-North Road

"There were some concerns from the citizens," said Mark Powell, the new Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly representative from Nikiski.

People have contacted him with questions about the specifications being met, the scheduling and plans to extend this year's paving work north of the industrial plants.

To address these issues, he has arranged a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Nikiski Senior Center. Besides Powell, Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Project Engineer Gary Walklin plan to attend. Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage, also may attend.

Walklin oversees the project for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Alaska Roadbuilders Inc. is the contractor on the job.

"We are kind of plugging away. We started paving Saturday," he said.

Paving was scheduled to begin last week, but part of the equipment that filters dust at the asphalt plant caught fire. That problem has been remedied and is no longer affecting the pace of work.

Crews are grinding up the old pavement and incorporating it in the base layer for the new surface. Two new layers will be put over it.

"By the end of July, we should be pretty close to being done," Walklin said.

Road crews are progressing north from Mile 10.6 at Kenai to Mile 22, just north of the plants. Pilot cars are available during lane closures, and crews try to do as much as possible during night shifts, he said.

Meanwhile, DOT will begin advertising the next phase of the project within the next two weeks, he said. The second phase will resurface the road from Mile 22 to Mile 29.7 at Halbouty Road. Road work there is scheduled to begin at the end of July.

n Redoubt and Forest Drive in Kenai

Forest Drive is open again, and any more road closures should be isolated and brief, reported DOT Project Engineer Gary Kobayashi on Monday.

"Foster (Construction) intends to do paving this weekend. It should be pretty much done by the 23rd," he said.

In the meantime, subdivision access to East Redoubt will be blocked, and anyone who does not live there and wishes to drive through will need to detour, he said.

n Sterling Highway Soldotna Urban Project Phase I

In Soldotna, the state of Alaska and contractor Colaska (formerly Quality Asphalt Products) are rebuilding the highway from Fred Meyer to Kobuk Avenue.

Crews will tear up lanes and lay new pavement starting this week. They plan to have the main roadway back together by the Fourth of July, said Chuck Swenor, the DOT project engineer.

Crews are on the job from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and motorists will experience intermittent lane closures.

The new asphalt will be state-of-the-art, he said. The paving will be done in two layers, and the outer one uses a new material called stone mastic asphalt. Invented in northern Europe, it has worked well in Anchorage. People may notice its rougher texture.

"It lasts considerably longer," Swenor said. "This is the first time we've put it on the Kenai Peninsula. ... It's the wave of the future."

Chewing up old asphalt and putting down the new are only the most obvious of the many tasks facing the road builders. They also are setting up wiring, putting utility pipes underground and making a sedimentation pond at the south end of Binkley Street behind Arby's.

Today, workers plan to start working on the bases for new traffic lights, he said.

The state's decision not to add additional signals at this time for Birch and Kobuk streets has been controversial.

Swenor said DOT is installing the wiring and sensors to service signals at those two intersections. Electricians also are running lines from Fred Meyer to Kobuk so that, in the future, lights can be synchronized for smooth traffic flow.

n East Redoubt in Soldotna

The city of Soldotna has finished its first phase of paving East Redoubt Avenue from the Sterling Highway intersection to Keystone Drive.

"It is paved," said Soldotna Public Works Director Steve Bone-brake. "It looks really good. We're just finishing up things."

The road is now wide enough for bicycles and has gravel shoulders suitable for pedestrians. It is a huge improvement over the old road, which was a maintenance headache, he said.

The city will be getting state funding to complete a second phase to pave East Redoubt from Keystone to Boundary Street.

"But it won't happen this year," he said.

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