Category Archives: transportation

Quake breaks K-Beach Road

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A 150-foot section of Kalifornsky Beach Road near Kasilof was damaged in the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck Southcentral Alaska at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Work crews began repairs Monday and both lanes were open Wednesday morning.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A 150-foot section of Kalifornsky Beach Road near Kasilof was damaged in the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck Southcentral Alaska at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Work crews began repairs Monday and both lanes were open Wednesday morning.

***Updated:****

Kalifornsky Beach Road reopened to two-way traffic Wednesday morning.

“They got in there, cut the pavement up, brought material in, filled the holes and leveled it out. Now, it will be gravel, of course, until the summer, because we can’t pave in the wintertime — it would not set. But it is open to two-way traffic,” said Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy.

DOT will continue to monitor the area, especially during spring breakup as the ground starts to thaw.

“We certainly will monitor the area. I don’t think it will become a mess but you can always have shifting, even with any road. And that’s why they brought in the compactors and things like that to really shore up and tighten up that area, but they’ll of course keep an eye on it and if any additional material needs to be brought in, they will do that,” McCarthy said.

The paving project should be quick, as well.

We were fortunate that was a short section so it will probably be a very straightforward project, just putting together a permanent repair,” she said.

DOT is asking drivers to reduce their speed and use caution as they drive over that section of road.

Original story:

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Though one lane of Kalifornsky Beach Road was still open to traffic Sunday afternoon, many drivers heading between Kenai and Kasilof stopped of their own volition. They wanted to see the gaping cracks in the pavement that occurred when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska around 1:30 that morning.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under earthquake, Kasilof, transportation

Cooper Landing highway reroute driving concern — Locals question expense, effects to businesses

Graphic courtesy of ADOT

Graphic courtesy of ADOT

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporte

Six cars drove past Wildman’s convenience store on the Sterling Highway in about two minutes on a recent weekend afternoon. Two of them pulled in. Wildman’s is one of the few businesses in Cooper Landing that stays open in the winter, much less on a Sunday.

General manager Heather Harrison says the business makes most of its money off the crowds of fishermen, tourists and commuters that clog the highway in the summer. But winter business is important, too.

“We stay open all year, we’re one of the very few places that stay open all year, and a lot of that is due to the traffic we’re able to pull in off the highway,” she said. “I do feel like people anticipate us coming up now at this point that we are one of the only places open and if they have to go to the bathroom, this is where they’re going to want to do it.”

That, and the fact that she’s on the Cooper Landing planning advisory committee, has her keeping an eye of the Alaska Department of Transportation’s plans to reroute the Sterling Highway through town. On Dec. 11, DOT announced its preferred route, building 5.5 miles of new highway north of town, and rejoining the existing Sterling Highway at Mile 51.5 between Cooper Creek and Gwin’s Lodge.

It’s the most-expensive alternative of the four DOT considered, and involves the least mileage of new road.

“I find the final plan to be a little surprising that they are bringing it out so close to town. It’s not going to bypass nearly as much as people thought,” Harrison said.

That’s both good news and bad to Harrison. First, she’s been worried what the bypass would do to winter business.

“Would I take the bypass as a traveler going to Anchorage to get around all the S curves, away from the road, yeah, I would. It’s safer, it’s faster,” she said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under business, Cooper Landing, public safety, transportation

Cooper Landing gets highway OK — ADOT identifies preferred north route for bypass

Graphic courtesy of ADOT

Graphic courtesy of ADOT

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

A trip through Cooper Landing is like driving back in time. Other than some repaving and filled potholes, the road hasn’t been upgraded since the Sterling Highway was completed in 1950, and it shows. Tight S curves with little visibility cling to hillsides and wind just above Kenai Lake and the Kenai River. Narrow lanes crowd big trucks, and the shoulders could be measured with rulers, not tape measures.

“Sometimes you can see the fog line on the outside of the lane that’s actually painted on gravel,” said Kelly Petersen, project manager with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Though the road hasn’t been upgraded in 65 years, traffic and its associated problems continue to increase. From 2000 to 2009, ADOT recorded 303 crashes between Mileposts 45 and 60, with 153 in the winter and 150 in the summer.

“Anyone that’s driven through this piece of highway, you know immediately when you’re at Milepost 45 because there’s no clear zones, there’s no shoulder, you’re more white-knuckled. And this is the place that everybody wants to be for the world-class experience of fishing,” Petersen said.

Yet a fix has been a long time coming. ADOT started working on an Environmental Impact Statement for a highway upgrade in the early 1980s, but for a longer stretch of the road — from Milepost 37 east of Cooper Landing, closer to the junction with the Seward Highway, to Milepost 60, west of the intersection with Skilak Lake Road. The project got split in two, with an upgrade of miles 37 to 45 being completed in 2001. The rest has been on the to-do list for so long that the original EIS has become the oldest environmental document for a highway project in the country.

But while the need for a safer road has been obvious, a solution has not.

“This project is in a unique place because it’s right next to Kenai Lake and the Kenai River, it’s a critical area with great salmon runs that are world famous. So, working between that and fairly steep terrain. And then, of course, we’ve got a wilderness area plus multiple trailheads, and there’s also cultural sites — archaeological and otherwise. So it’s definitely a challenging place to build,” said Shannon McCarthy, ADOT spokesperson.

Any one of those challenges can be a significant hurdle to a highway project. And in this case, the challenges kept coming.

“There’s just been a lot of changes in the corridor, both in traffic, the formation of (the Kenai River Special Management Area), the identification of selection properties under (the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act). The whole issue is, this is a complex piece,” Petersen said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooper Landing, driving, public safety, transportation

Driven to assess — AK LNG presents Spur highway reroute options

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kirk and Jeannie Nickel examine a map of options to reroute the Kenai Spur Highway around the proposed AK LNG plant in Nikiski.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kirk and Jeannie Nickel examine a map of options to reroute the Kenai Spur Highway around the proposed AK LNG plant in Nikiski.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

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.”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under industry, Nikiski, transportation

Data-driven collisions — Fish and Game seeing changing trends in wildlife-vehicle accidents

File photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A bull moose draws a crowd as it prepares to cross the road.

File photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A bull moose draws a crowd as it prepares to cross the road.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Tourists and Alaskans alike often enjoy seeing moose, but never so up close that one of the 1,200-pound animals is crashing through their windshield. Yet that inevitably happens every year, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“To be exact, we had 154 moose that were hit, killed and reported on the Kenai Peninsula from July 1, 2014, to June 10, 2015,” said Larry Lewis, a wildlife biologist with Fish and Game.

Those numbers are actually trending downward when compared against the averages for the past 28 years, Lewis said, which is how long records of moose-vehicle collisions have been kept by Fish and Game, compiled from their own reports as well as from Alaska State Troopers, Kenai and Soldotna police and the Alaska Railroad, since moose stepping onto railroad tracks are occasionally hit by trains.

“When you look at the data from 1985 to ’86 up to 2013, the mean number of moose hit comes out to about 248 animals, and 154 is obviously well below that,” Lewis said.

While the number of moose killed has started to come down in recent years, Lewis said that the number of moose that run off into the woods after being hit is trending upward.

“I’m not sure if it’s lighter vehicles now versus the old tankers, or if it has something to do with how people are driving, but last regulatory year we had reports of 79 hit and not recovered. We only started keeping track of this since 2000, but just since that time the average is 73,” he said.

As high as both these numbers are — 233 combined — Lewis said that the numbers still don’t paint a clear picture of how many moose are actually hit on the peninsula.

“These are just the ones we know about. By law, collisions with moose are supposed to be reported, but every year some are found dead on the roadside,” he said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under moose, public safety, transportation, wildlife

Road project to add new traffic signals

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Kalifornsky Beach Road from Bridge Access Road in Kenai to the Sterling Highway intersection in Soldotna will get an upgrade next summer. A project now in the final design phase by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities includes resurfacing the 6.2-mile stretch of road, making modifications at Bridge Access and Poppy Lane intersections, and adding traffic lights at Ciechanski Road and Gas Well Road.

“We’re planning to get this to construction for summer in 2016. I think the construction will only take one summer. There might be some minor cleanup items, maybe some seeding or some other things that they might need to come back and finish up next year, but it should be a one-season project,” said Cynthia Ferguson, project manager with ADOT.

Ferguson said they’re in the public comment phase, looking for people to share their experience on that road. The project team held on open house July 14 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

“We’re finishing up our design. We’re getting some great feedback at the meeting here, and we’ll go back and consider those comments and finalize our design. … So it’s basically anything folks have a concern about or they’d like to have looked at we’re interested in getting their information about that,” she said.

The two new traffic signals will be the biggest change to the road. There are many reasons why DOT might add signals to an intersection. At both Ciechanski and Gas Well, the issue is capacity, where the volume of turning traffic is so high it causes backups on side streets.

“We do look at all the intersections statewide and rank them for ones that need signals. So part of that ranking, these two, at Gas Well and Ciechanski, were near the top of that list, so that’s how they came to be incorporated in the project,” Ferguson said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under transportation

Accidents slow holiday start

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Traffic headed back to Anchorage from the Kenai Peninsula after the July Fourth weekend was backed up as far as Girdwood on Sunday night.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Traffic headed back to Anchorage from the Kenai Peninsula after the July Fourth weekend was backed up as far as Girdwood on Sunday night.

Staff report

The Kenai Peninsula lived up to its title as Alaska’s playground over the July Fourth weekend, with thousands of visitors making the trip south for the Mount Marathon race in Seward, salmon fishing in Kenai, halibut fishing in Homer or various other activities. Whatever their destination, they all had to make it through the drive along the Seward Highway, which proved to be a challenge with three major incidents slowing or completely halting traffic.

The first and most serious was a collision involving a motorcycle and an Alaska State Trooper vehicle Friday evening that left a 58-year-old Anchorage man dead and the highway closed for six hours.

Michael Kemper was seen speeding on a motorcycle around 7 p.m. Friday, heading south in the highway’s safety corridor at Mile 93. Troopers say Kemper ignored the signal to pull over and instead rode on the shoulder of the highway, between the guardrail and other traffic. The motorcycle collided with the back of a Chevy Suburban that had pulled over to yield to the trooper. That crash landed Kemper back in traffic, where the trooper’s vehicle hit him.

Kemper was wearing a helmet but was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy. Trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said that toxicology tests are being performed to determine whether drugs or alcohol were factors in the collision.

The name of the trooper involved was initially withheld citing trooper policy when troopers are involved in an on-duty shooting, but was released Sunday. It was Trooper Jeffrey F. Simpson, a veteran of nearly 13 years with the force, based in Girdwood with the Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol since 2011. Ipsen said the incident is the first of its kind in the agency’s history.

The highway was reopened around 1 a.m. Saturday.

It was closed again Saturday night for two separate incidents. At about 7:40 p.m. a plane made an emergency landing near Potter Marsh just outside Anchorage. The Cessna, with three people aboard, apparently had a fuel problem. According to National Transportation Safety Board officials, no injuries were reported, though the plane clipped a car during the landing. The highway was closed for about 20 minutes while Anchorage police and fire crews responded and the plane was removed.

And at about 8 p.m., a Dodge pickup truck towing a boat and trailer drove off the highway into the swamp near Mile 89.5. Troopers say that 66-year-old Dana Lynn Dobson, of Wasilla, had been wearing his seat belt and was treated by medics at the scene. No other vehicles were involved in the incident. Damage to the truck was estimated at about $5,000, with an additional $2,000 in damage to the trailer. Dobson was cited for not carrying current proof of insurance and released at the scene.

The highway was sporadically closed for more than two hours as the pickup and trailer were recovered.

Leave a comment

Filed under public safety, transportation