Local businesses look forward to the opening of the new Soldotna Bridge.
As mud and gravel disappeared and the blacktop went down on the northern and southern approaches to the new Soldotna Bridge last week, a renewed respect was felt for those stalwart homesteaders that endured so many years of mud and gravel roads as they raised their families and got their kids to and from school. Nevertheless, the business community that has been affected the most by the bridge construction is relieved to hear that the project is on schedule and that the light at the end of the tunnel is not from another bridge closure sign. “It’s been challenging and a little like when life gives you a lemon, make lemonade. The workers and crane operators have been some of our regular customers, they’re great people, and they offered to put a sign on their crane for us and we thought that was great and really appreciated it,” said Cherie Curry, who opened the new Crossing Restaurant at the bridge this spring.
According to Matt Coullahan, project engineer for the State of Alaska things are going well and back on schedule, “We’re very happy with the progress that we’ve been making and appreciate the cooperation everyone has been giving us by slowing down, following the detours and driving carefully. That should be all behind us now and by the time your paper hits the street we should be back on day shifts and finishing up the bike paths and sidewalks. It should be pretty pain free for folks from here on and we should be off the road before they even have to be to work in the morning,” said Coullahan.
While Coullahan is hoping for clement weather when it comes to surfacing the bridge itself, there are contingency plans in place, “We’re waiting to see what the weather will do, but if necessary we have natural gas available and we could tent the entire bridge while we are working on it if need be,” said Coullahan. They are presently waiting for shim plates that will allow them to get the forms in place to pour the deck, “It’ll be little extra work for us and you may see us struggling to get our forms in place, but nothing that’ll keep us from our projected mid to late October opening,” added Coullahan. The bridge has been designed with a camber that is visible now but will straighten out when the concrete and asphalt are put in place. According to Coullahan even if a worse case scenario of events were to occur the new bridge will be open before 2006 closes, “There is no other option for the contractor on the table at this point and we want to even have the temporary bridge out of the water before December 31st as most of our Army Corps. Of Engineers permits expire at that time and anyone who has ever had to apply for any type of government permit understands the hassle that is and it’s just as much a hassle for the State of Alaska as well. So we hope to have all the temporary abutments out of the water and be able to give the nice people at the Crossing and Kenai River Lodge RV Park their property back by New Year’s Day when our leases run out.” Coullahan will not predict the hour or the day but says he plans on seeing Trick or Treaters going across the new bridge.
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