By Jenny Neyman
There are still far more questions than answers about the proposed AK LNG project and its potential terminus facility in Nikiski. But of the many unknowns, one thing, at least, was certain Monday — the route driven by the more than 100 attendees of a community meeting at the Nikiski Recreation Center will not be the same road driven in four or five years if the project does happen.
The Nikiski facility as it’s currently envisioned lies right on top of the Kenai Spur Highway.
“When we are looking where plant site is, the highway does bisect that and that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So we’d like to look at options of redirecting that traffic and redirecting the major road that goes through this area in a safe manner,” said Lydia Johnson, technical manager for the AK LNG project.
The facility will need around 700 to 800 acres, she said. The current design places it between about Industrial Avenue south to Robert Walker Avenue and from the bluff east to about McCaughey Street. That puts it right on top of the Kenai Spur Highway as it parallels the bluff between its intersections with North and South Miller Loops.
Project managers are working with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, federal highway managers and the Kenai Peninsula Borough to look at how to relocate the road, and want public input, as well. To that end, an open house was held Monday evening to provide information on the project, answer questions and collect feedback. As with previous meetings AK LNG has held in Nikiski, this one got a sizable turnout.
“Hopefully the message has gotten out that we’ve just really started in this process and we really want to hear feedback and comments from the people that live here and are going to have to live with this road,” Johnson said. “So we want to make sure that gets stewed into our designs and into all of our considerations, as well, so we’re thrilled that there are this many people here.”
Large-scale maps showing the various reroute options were displayed around the room with sticky notes provided so people could write and affix their observations, preferences and concerns. The new section would be posted with a 55 mph speed limit and have two, 12-foot travel lanes with a 12-foot turning lane to ease the additional traffic to the LNG facility, 8-foot shoulders and a 12-foot multiuse pathway separated from the road.
Eleven highlighted route options crisscross the map. Most turn inland around South Miller Loop and head north either between Cabin Lake and the AK LNG site or along the eastern side of Cabin Lake. They connect back to the existing highway route in a variety of options — including along North Miller Loop, south and north of Bernice Lake, near Foreland Street and along Island Lake Road.
It’s a bit of a spaghetti bowl, Johnson concedes, because nothing has been ruled out yet. Options will be whittled down based on several factors — community input, regulatory requirements, acquisition of land parcels and environmental concerns, among many others.
“And it will depend on what the geometry will look like and what the water looks like and what the geology looks like of the roads and then, ultimately, how our site lays out, as well,” Johnson said. “We still haven’t finalized that either. You have to be certain distances from different things for air emission and noise and all of that stuff. So it’s all a big puzzle that we’re putting together, so that’s why all those options are out there.”