Commuters who live south of Soldotna may have noticed some minor delays on the way to town on Wednesday morning, as the federally funded Sterling Highway Resurfacing project got under way.
The $5.6 million project -- being done by Alaska Road Builders Inc. -- will cover 16.7 miles of the Sterling Highway from the intersection with Kalifornsky Beach Road, south to South Cohoe Loop.
"We'll start around 8:30 a.m. and we'll be working as late as we can, since we have such a narrow weather window at this time of year," said Gary Walklin, project engineer with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
The project will include pre-leveling to take out potholes and dips, paving, new striping, erecting new signs, and putting in new guardrail.
"We've been doing the pre-leveling (this week) and that should go through Friday, but we have no plans to work Saturday or Sunday. We didn't want to impact traffic headed to the fair in Ninilchik," Walklin said.
Roughly 95 percent of the highway in the project area will need pre-leveling, and Walklin said the goal is to work in 5-mile sections at a time, with it expected to take two to three days per lane.
Since the highway will be reduced to one lane for this work, a pace car is being utilized to safely move traffic through the construction area in an alternating pattern, and so far traffic delays have been relatively minor, according to Walklin.
"I've been timing it out and the wait has been around 12 minutes, so traffic is moving well. There are also alternative routes for those who can't wait," he said referring to Kalifornsky Beach Road, or Kalifornsky Beach Road to Echo Lake Road until the project moves south past Echo Lakes Road's connection with the Sterling Highway.
Walklin said the goal is to try to complete pre-leveling in the north end of the project first and perform top-lift paving at least from Soldotna south to around the Solid Waste Department's Soldotna Landfill.
"We're hoping to have it done the last week of August because once you get out past the high school and the landfill, the traffic volume really drops off," he said.
The remainder of the paving work for the highway further to the south would then be resumed again next season with the return of the warm weather.
Despite the paving hiatus, fall construction work will still take place in the project area.
"We have about two miles of guardrail to replace and that will start at the end of August or the beginning of September, and we'll have temporary lane closures associated with that work throughout September, but it should come after the paving window, so there shouldn't be any double traffic delays," Walklin said.
The resurfacing project is scheduled to be completed in its entirety by June 31, 2010.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at email@example.com.
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