Rough road makes way for smooth sailing


Posted: Friday, September 09, 2005

For those of you breathing a sigh of relief that the tourist RVs have left the central Kenai Peninsula and taken slow traffic with it — don’t exhale just yet. Road construction starting next week promises to cause delays rivaling those created by our most rubber-necking land yacht summer visitors.

A mild irritation will be when North Star Paving and Construction Inc. starts repaving the Kenai Spur Highway from Mile 3 to 8, which is expected to begin in the next two weeks. Traffic delays are expected to be in the three- to four-minute area.

The worst of it will be at the Soldotna bridge starting Monday night. From 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day except Saturday next week, crews will be tearing up pavement in the Sterling Highway-Kalifornsky Beach Road intersection. Traffic lights will be taken down, holes will be dug, flaggers will descend en masse, the highway leading up the hill to Skyview High School will be detoured to Ski Hill Road; indeed, the entire intersection will be realigned.

During the day, the heavy equipment and flaggers will move out and the traffic lights will be turned back on. Even so, the intersection will be dirt for the time being, so traffic still will be slow.

At the end of the month, the fun begins again when the intersection is repaved.

All this means two things. One is that, when the work is done, the intersection will be expanded, freshly paved, newly painted and realigned, making it bigger, safer and more efficient.

As for the Spur, one only has to think back to the Swiss cheese conditions the road degraded into during breakup to be happy it’s getting repaved.

That’s the important thing to keep in mind, because the other effect of this construction will be traffic delays.

Traffic around the bridge will be held up the worst.

“It will really slow the traffic down, so if they can avoid the intersection, that would be a good thing,” said Chuck Swenor, project engineer with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Swenor said every vehicle going through that intersection while it’s under construction will be stopped. He warns drivers to expect at least 10-minute delays that will probably be even longer Monday while the kinks get worked out of the system.

It’ll be easy for drivers to spend that 10 minutes fuming about being held up.

We suggest people occupy their time in another manner — by keeping in mind the hard work the crews are doing, how much better the roads will be when the work is done and that, after all, it could be worse.

Planners have been agonizing over the best — meaning least-obtrusive to drivers — way to get this work done. Paving can’t be done in the winter, so it’s either now or next spring or summer, which could coincide with fishing season.

That’s a no-brainer.

For the K-Beach intersection, doing the work at night will be a pain for the crews that will have to adjust to the night shift, but it’s better than during the day in peak traffic times.

And even though jostling around on gravel isn’t comfortable or conducive to keeping a car clean, fresh pavement means less potholes in the long run.

So if you’re driving between our Twin Cities this week, or for the rest of the month, for that matter, bring some good music, a thumbs-up for the construction workers and, above all, your patience.

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