Bridge project closer to start

Posted: Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Every day the city of Soldotna gets closer to seeing new bridge construction over the Kenai River, but no one is in the position to start counting those days.

There is still much planning to be done before the project can begin in March. The bridge project contractors will have a preconstruction meeting today at 10 a.m. at the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities conference room to work out a general schedule. Dick Loweman, project manager, said the conference with the contractor will be a meeting to reveal contract revisions and to make sure everything is understood. Loweman said dealing with traffic will be a good challenge.

"The contractor will submit a traffic plan, which we'll review with a critical eye. The traffic could make it stressful on the public and on us," Loweman said.

Tom Boedeker, city manager, spoke to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday and said the bridge project is in the capable hands of the engineers in charge.

"They're familiar with the area and are sensitive to traffic issues since that is a major city concern," he said.

Boedeker said DOT also is planning to move into a project office in January or February near Kobuk, where the construction will begin. The construction will advance all the way across Kalifornsky Beach Road. A sedimentation pond also will be built behind the Eureka Mall near the bridge.

Soldotna residents will be able to monitor the project on the Internet. Loweman said his intent in to make the project accessible to the public, and he's talking about putting cameras up around the construction site.

"The state is developing a bridge construction Web site, a new approach to keep residents up to date with improvements," he said.

Another development taking shape in the area is the renovation project to Central Peninsula General Hospital. David Gilbreath, hospital president, said phase one is complete. This was essentially preparation for vertical construction, phase two, which could begin as early as March.

The entire project includes renovating approximately 46 percent of the existing hospital and 74,000 square feet of new construction, including a two-story addition.

Gilbreath also updated the chamber on internal changes.

"The hospital goals are to make it feel less institutional and more homelike. We've got music playing in the waiting area and patients have given it rave reviews. Visiting hours also are going away to fit with more schedules," Gilbreath said.

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