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Roads plan suggests tax increase

Posted: Sunday, September 21, 2003

Kenai Peninsula Borough roads are costly to maintain and many are not built to borough standards, but those problems could be addressed with more maintenance funding through an increase in road taxes or a borough gas tax and a program to upgrade substandard roads, said the company hired earlier this year to rewrite the 11-year-old borough transportation plan.

Those were just a couple of the recommendations included in a draft update of the plan offered by HDR Alaska Inc. The draft attempts to take into account im-provements made since 1992 in transportation facilities and services, as well as numerous changes in federal, state and borough institutions that govern planning, construction and maintenance of transportation facilities, HDR said in the introduction to the draft.

The draft covers current and future road, transit, aviation, marine, rail and trail transportation concerns, as well as issues such as subdivision road standards, road upgrade needs, aviation within the borough and pedestrian pathways. Copies are available through the borough and can be seen and downloaded from the borough's Web site at www.kpbtransplan.net.

HDR officials said they combined analyses of existing transportation and land-use policies and plans and an analysis of traffic trends, with public comments taken during a first-round of public meetings held in May and June to create the draft document. That included doing traffic volume forecasts to highlight needed roadway im-provements, HDR said.

"The plan will be used to shape borough transportation policies and priorities and to support requests for federal highway and aviation improvement projects," HDR said in a Thursday press release.

A second round of public meetings will give borough residents a chance to comment on its provisions. The first is scheduled for Monday at the Kenai City Council chambers, followed Tuesday with a public meeting at the Soldotna City Council chambers. Both meetings will run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

For other scheduled public meetings and advisory planning commission meetings at which the transportation plan will be discussed, see the box on page A-1.

Once this round of public meetings is completed, the draft will be revised to include comments from those meetings. The draft and final transportation plan will be presented to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in October and November, respectively.

The draft includes assessments of the various transportation services within the borough and makes recommendations for improvements.

HDR said, for instance, that additional road maintenance funds are needed, and suggested sources of those funds could be a state-funded local road program, a local increase in the 1.5 mill road service area property tax or a borough gasoline tax.

The borough needs a "road upgrade and acceptance" program to ensure roads are built to borough standards, HDR said. Funding could come from borough and private funds or the existing limited improvement district program.

To enforce compliance with borough subdivision standards, HDR suggested requiring developers to post bonds and require road acceptance prior to plat approval.

A similar proposal led Mayor Dale Bagley to veto a long-debated and narrowly adopted road standards ordinance in September 2002. That ordinance would have required subdivision developers to build roads to borough standards before offering lots for sale. Bagley said property owners could have problems building roads at the time of a plat.

On trails, HDR recommended stressing the importance that pedestrian walkways be included in state projects and development of a statute to allow dedication of public trail easements as part of the platting process.

On Marine issues, HDR recommended the borough assume greater port and harbor authority, that it coordinate in regional security measures because Homer and Seward are backup ports to the Port of Anchorage, and that it support expansion of ferry service to Seldovia and Port Graham. HDR also said the borough should ask the state to refocus Alaska Marine Highway System services on Kachemak Bay and Kodiak rather than trips to Prince William Sound.

Airport improvements are needed, HDR said in the transportation plan draft, recommending identifying sites for new or expanded airports and working with Kenai and Homer to promote competition in the local air service market.

To address rail service issues, HDR recommended partnering with the Alaska Railroad to promote development and to work with the railroad on resolving hazardous crossing problems.

HDR further recommended determining if the borough should continue supporting the Central Area Rural Transit System and whether it should be expanded to Homer, Seward and possibly other parts of Kenai.



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