Keystone Drive funds secured

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2007

Located along the Kenai River, Keystone Drive is a vital collector road in need of major improvements, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough is set to accept a $3.4 million federal grant for the state-borough upgrade project.

At its Tuesday meeting in Homer, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will introduce Ordinance 2007-19-25, which would accept and appropriate federal dollars funneled through the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Keystone Drive, now a 3.2-mile-long dirt road stretching from Boundary Road to the border of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, serves numerous homes, tourist-related businesses, federally managed and private park facilities, and a public boat launch. Over the years, public use has grown, and according to the borough, the road now experiences 10 times its original volume of traffic, which peaks in the summer months when the fish are in.

The traffic leads to potholes and the washboard effect, generating noise and dust and causing damage to vehicles, according to roads officials, who also note the poor conditions hinder emergency vehicle response, and poor drainage has caused flooding with polluted runoff reaching the Kenai River.

As envisioned, the project would rebuild and pave the road, and add shoulders to accommodate pedestrians.

Improving the road has been on the borough's state priority list since 2002. According to the borough administration, community efforts have generated nearly $7 million in federal and state funds earmarked specifically for a Keystone Drive road improvement project.

The first funds, $909,700, were accepted from the federal government in early 2005 and a $90,300 local match was added from borough Road Service Area funds. That was followed later in the year with an additional $2 million in federal funding, which required no matching money.

In 2006, the Alaska Capital Budget included another $3.4 million in federal earmarks, and the borough's legislative contingent requested and got $325,080 to meet a matching requirement.

In August, the borough received word from the DOT that the $3.4 million was now available.

The borough has entered a memorandum of agreement with DOT to manage the project in coordination with DOT personnel to assure the road is designed and constructed to borough standards. Once rebuilt and paved, the borough will assume maintenance responsibility for the road.

According to an online schedule, construction would likely occur in 2008 and 2009.

A public hearing and final action on the ordinance accepting and appropriating the $3.4 million is scheduled for Oct. 23.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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