Soldotna urges simple design for new bridge

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2003

Don't get carried away.

That's the message the Soldotna City Council gave the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in a letter sent last week regarding the state's plan to build a new, 400-foot, $28 million Sterling Highway bridge.

Soldotna City Manager Tom Boedeker drafted the letter following Wednesday's regular council meeting, at which council members restated their belief that a "less is more" concept should be applied to the project.

"The main thing is just keep it simple and also the safety factor," said council member Jane Stein.

Boedeker told the council that the results of a semi-formal survey the city conducted to gauge the public's feelings toward the project seemed to find consensus on several key aspects of the bridge design. Among them, Boedeker said the surveys favored a bridge which will blend in with the surrounding environment.

"Simplicity was generally the main thing," Boedeker said of the survey results. "So the bridge didn't stand out from the (river) setting."

Boedeker said a proposed design which uses mesh screen and railings for the bridge, which would allow motorists and pedestrians an unobstructed view of the Kenai River seemed to be a high priority among Soldotna residents. He also said residents were unimpressed with DOT proposals which would incorporate some kind of theme or major gateway design into the bridge, although he did caution that the survey responses were mainly anecdotal in nature.

"We're trying to read a lot into these surveys," he told the council. "(But) the idea of a gateway did not seem to get too many votes."

Boedeker said residents generally favored the idea of having wide, 8 1/2 foot, pedestrian walkways alongside the roadway, and speculated that such walkways would be favorable from a maintenance point of view as well. He said city crews could clear such walkways much easier than narrow ones, which would require special equipment to clear in the winter.

Following Boedeker's report, the council directed the city manager to send a letter to the state which would outline the city's concerns. In the letter, Boedeker said he would include several key points, including:

The design should be kept simple.

Decoration should be kept to a minimum. Some kind of decoration, such as a small city logo may be incorporated, but large, "centerpiece" designs which incorporate a full-blown theme and detract from the scenery should be left out.

Lighting should be understated and not create unnecessary light pollution.

Wide pedestrian walkways, with small "pocket parks" for possible river viewing are preferred.

The state should make every effort to protect the Kenai River during the construction phase of the project, and the bridge design should not interfere with existing river habitat.

A five-lane design is preferred in order to maintain safety across the bridge.

Following the discussion, Mayor Dave Carey said he believes the letter will accurately reflect both the council and area resident's wishes about what the final bridge design should look like.

"I think we've done a good job in representing the city on this issue," Carey said.

Images of the three current bridge designs currently proposed by DOT can be viewed at River City Books in Soldotna and online at the city's Web site, www.ci.sol-dotna.ak.us, by clicking on "Soldotna Bridge Project."



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