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Construction ramping up again on Sterling Highway project

Sabine Poux
Last summer, crews cleared land of vegetation.

Cooper Landing is heading into its second summer of highway construction.

Crews are getting back to work on the Sterling Highway bypass project, the plan to divert traffic between mileposts 45 and 60 of the highway up to a bridge across Juneau Creek Canyon.

The project is in its early stages now. The Alaska Department of Transportation says it hopes to have the road open to construction in 2027.

This summer and last summer were all about the west end of the project, affecting the road at mile posts 56 and 58 of the highway, roughly between Sportsman’s and Jim’s landings.

Project Engineer Shaun Combs was heading back from the construction site Tuesday afternoon. He said crews are starting to arrive on scene this summer, stabilizing and cutting rocks and getting materials on site.

“And we also started excavating for wildlife crossings," he said.

Those are dugouts underneath the road that moose and other animals will be able to use to get around the highway. Combs said there are two of them planned for this stretch of the road — one near the Fuller Lakes trailhead and another near the end at milepost 56.

Combs said they hope to put in culverts and drainage systems by July and August. Then, he said, theyll start paving and getting the main grade in place.

Similar to last year, there will be some road closures for project work. Combs said they try to tackle those at night.

"So it will be a lower-impact to the traveling public, starting the month of June," Combs said. "That usually goes all the way through to the first week of September. Then we come back to more of a day-shift setup.”

Early next week, crews will be blasting rocks on parts of the road, at mile post 57.5. The highway will be closed on Monday April 25 and Tuesday April 26 between 8 and 11 p.m.

Part of the bypass also goes through cultural sites, which include buried Dena’ina artifacts. Last summer, archeologists with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe started doing excavation work to make sure the project isn’t negatively impacting those sites. Combs said that work is ongoing.

It takes big construction crews to tackle the workload. This summer and last, housing in Cooper Landing has been tight. Combs said a lot of the crews that come in are used to working on-site in rural communities and will park RVs where they can, at spots like the Sunrise Inn and in Moose Pass.

Meanwhile, other phases of the project are starting to come together. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly green lit a sale of 180 acres of borough land in the right-of-way area to the Department of Transportation at its Tuesday meeting.

DOT has some opportunities for questions and comments on the project this month. There’s an online open house with information about the project and summer construction at

There’s also an in-person public meeting in Cooper Landing this Thursday between 5 and 8 p.m. at the Cooper Landing Community Hall.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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