Bridge a no-go

Posted: Wednesday, October 05, 2005

By a nearly 2-1 margin, voters rejected a plan to begin the process of building a bridge across the Kenai River between Funny River and Sterling. A proposal to spend borough money on the bridge failed by an even greater margin.

With all precincts reporting, part A of Proposition 3, which asked voters if they supported a bridge, failed by a margin of 65.76 percent against versus 34.24 percent in favor. Part B of the proposition, which would have authorized borough money for the project, failed by an almost 3-1 margin.

Support for the bridge was strongest in the communities most closely linked with the plan, Funny River and Sterling. Approximately 46.6 percent of Funny River voters supported the bridge, while roughly 45.5 of those in Sterling said it was a good idea.

The proposition would have linked the two communities and created a new transportation corridor in the central peninsula.

Arguments in favor of the bridge included the need to increase business in the Funny River area and add an emergency escape route for the community, which is linked to the rest of the peninsula by Funny River Road.

Keith Myrick is the owner of Isom's Funny River cafe. He said he was in support of the bridge because he believes the small community could use more traffic in order to spur economic development.

"It's going to bring more people out and it's going to be good for my business," Myrick said Tuesday shortly before the polls closed.

Kasilof's Mike Anderson said he, too, wanted to see the bridge built. As an electrical line worker, he said he often has to travel between Sterling and Funny River, a trip that currently takes more than a half hour. Were a bridge built, the same trip would take just a couple minutes.

"I can literally see where I've got to go to work but I have to drive all the way around," he said. "It would let you get around a lot easier."

The borough had no specific cost estimate for the project. A draft environmental impact study prepared in 1997 indicated a 550-foot span would cost in the neighborhood of $10 million to build. In addition, such a project likely would call for an additional 1.7 miles of road to be built.

The federal government has earmarked approximately $5 million in funding for the project, but that money would require a large borough match and the Alaska Department of Transportation has been lukewarm about the project.

David Paulsen lives on Betty Lou Drive near where the proposed bridge would have gone. He said he opposed the idea for a number of reasons, including the fact that a bridge would ruin the tranquility of his neighborhood and cause environmental damage to the Kenai River.

"It would be a total disaster," Paulsen said.

According to the '97 study, the bridge likely would have been built somewhere near the Scout Lake Loop area.

Paulsen said the people in the immediate area around where the bridge likely would have gone didn't favor the proposition.

"They were 100 percent against it," he said.

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