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Judge backs highway widening near Wasilla

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A Superior Court judge has backed the state in its effort to widen the Parks Highway to four lanes near Wasilla. An Anchorage civil engineer had argued that the expansion would hurt local businesses and decrease the value of land he owns adjacent to the highway.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Rene Gonzalez ruled this week that Bill Tucker didn't prove the state's decision to expand the highway was arbitrary.

Tucker's company, Fairview Parks Investments, owns a 111-acre chunk of undeveloped land next to the highway. The state sought to condemn about 15 acres of that to make way for the expansion. The DOT sued Tucker to get it after the two sides could not agree on a purchase price.

Tucker fought back by challenging the entire project. He argued state transportation officials ignored the idea of building a bypass around Wasilla, which he said would be cheaper and better for businesses than the planned four-lane restricted access freeway with frontage roads.

Gonzalez, however, said the state's decision was supported by studies showing that that even if a bypass was built, the highway would still need to be widened.

The decision clears the way for the state to begin work on the $38 million project to expand the highway from two to four lanes along a two-mile stretch.

Crews, however, likely will get little done this year because it's so late in the construction season, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Murph O'Brien. The project had been on hold.

Tucker could appeal the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.



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