The snowfall the past week signaled the end of the road construction season in Kenai, though what has been completed has caused some controversy.
Redoubt Avenue, which runs for more than a mile from the Kenai Spur Highway east to the Woodland Subdivision, is mostly complete, with only a few sections left to pave. However, the road uses a design that is rarely seen in these parts and has some wondering.
The road appears to rise and fall in a wave-like manner.
The design has Kenai City Council members scratching their heads.
"Is that a normal way to construct a road?" asked Joe Moore at a recent council meeting. "I've never seen a road like that."
Neither had council member Jim Bookey.
"It looks like a roller-coaster," he said.
Bookey was concerned enough about the design of the road that he asked if the city could reject ownership of it when it's completed.
"If that's the finished product that they want to give to the city of Kenai, then no thanks," he said. "Is there any way to say, 'no, we don't want the road'?"
Redoubt, along with North Forest Drive, will be turned over to the city once they are rebuilt. State Department of Transportation project engineer Gary Kobayashi said that practice is becoming more common as road building funds increase from the federal government and road maintenance funds decrease from the state Legislature.
As for the roller-coaster nature of Redoubt, Kobayashi said he has seen roads designed like that in the desert Southwest, where rain from cloudbursts needs to run off the road quickly.
"I saw it on the plan profile sheets, but I didn't realize the magnitude of the rolling grade," he said. "They don't usually do that."
He said the road is designed to shed water most efficiently, and the appearance does not affect its utility.
"It's just a visual thing. There's no engineering reason why it would be any less quality of a road than what was there," Kobayashi said.
Kenai Public Works Director Keith Kornelis agreed.
"It could just be aesthetics," he said. "I don't have a problem with it. It looks that way because you're looking down a long corridor."
He told the council the road was designed to allow for gutters and drains to be installed later, and the dips are required to facilitate that drainage.
However, Bookey noted some of the drains are located at high-points in the road.
"I'm still baffled by this," he said.
Both Bookey and Moore said they have received numerous calls on the subject. Bookey said he gets a call every night when he goes home, and Moore said callers have begun referring to the project as "the Funny River Road of Kenai."
Bookey suggested that if the city is ever asked by DOT to take over other streets in the city, the council should "take a hard look at it, because this project has not been done up to standards."
While most of Redoubt has been paved, the work on North Forest stopped before that stage was reached. Kobayashi said about half the crushed stone base had been laid down, and the rest of it will be put in before paving next summer.
"We also need to install the curb, gutter and (drainage)," he said.
Forest will have 12-foot-wide lanes, 5-foot paved shoulders and 5-foot concrete sidewalks on both sides. The work includes major water and sewer work, as well as street lights the entire 5,200 feet.
Kornelis said the mud and silt in the road bed has been replaced, so there should be no more frost heaves or bumps.
The improvements on Redoubt include 11-foot-wide lanes with 6-foot paved shoulders, along with a 10-foot-wide paved path on the south side of the road.
Foster Construction is the general contractor on the job, which was bid at $4.6 million. DOT is funding the entire project with mostly federal funds, though the city is paying for water and sewer improvements.
Kobayashi expects Foster to resume work around May 1. The completion date is in late June.
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