Weather only road block for Unity Trail

Posted: Friday, October 10, 2003

Work on the Unity Trail will come to a close for winter with the expected completion of the portion connecting Soldotna to Kenai along the Kenai Spur Highway.

With just a piece of the bike path remaining to be finished, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities central region director Mike Scott earlier this week predicted an end to major work on the project by quitting time today.

"That piece should be done at the end of the week," he said.

DOT project manager Bob Lundell added one condition to this forecast.

"It's weather dependent," he said. "You want a warm, dry day to do pavement."

In spite of the fact that dry days have been few and far between this week, with precipitation on three of the past four days, Alaska RoadBuilders crews still were out Thursday paving spots of the trail. The incomplete portion was left undone, however.

The majority of the 5.3-mile bike path was completed early in the summer, but a quarter-mile stretch between Eagle Rock and Strawberry roads was left untouched until DOT officials were able to acquire some of the property in that portion of road in August.

Of three adjoining plots along the quarter-mile stretch of highway, one piece of land jointly registered to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Kenai resident Phyllis Bookey had been the stopping block in DOT's progress.

But DOT was able to negotiate a deal to acquire the land and complete the project. Although the price of the property and just how much was acquired by the state remained unavailable Thursday, current Kenai Peninsula Borough appraisals valued the entire plot at $225,800.

Lundell said the project was able to retain the services of Alaska RoadBuilders to complete the project without having to rebid, once the final portion got a green light. He said the company did a good job of quickly shoring up the work in an effort to beat the season's end.

"Usually what shuts down construction is weather," he said. "There is no end. You finish what you can get finished."

Awaiting dry days to lay down asphalt and pave the last patch of the trail, Scott said soggy weather would be the only thing to hold up completion.

"We may need a couple of signs, but pretty much when we go to pavement, the job will be done," Lundell said.

The total price tag for the project was about $3.3 million and, if completed before the snow flies, the project will have taken two years from the time initial bidding began in the fall of 2001 until this year.

Lundell said there will be some minor site cleanup at the end of the project, and work in the spring to water grass planted along the route. Labeling the project a success, he said the department will have an official ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. on Oct. 21.

"Although they might seem simple, building trails when there is already a highway there (is) very difficult," Lundell said. "It's sometimes easier to go build a whole new highway. Despite that, I think it went very well."

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