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DOT will make progress on dozens of new, ongoing Peninsula road projects this year

Near mile 0 of the Seward Highway, one of the many roadways around the peninsula that will be repaved or rehabilitated this year.
Riley Board
Near mile 0 of the Seward Highway, one of the many roadways around the peninsula that will be repaved or rehabilitated this year.

The new year ushers in a new season of road work for the Alaska Department of Transportation. Several construction projects are ongoing or due to begin on the Kenai Peninsula in 2023, with others in early planning stages.

David Post with the Alaska Department of Transportation said one of the biggest projects on the peninsula is in an important stage this year.

Post said this summer, DOT will buy steel to build the bridge over Juneau Creek Canyon — the latest move in the Sterling Highway MP 45-60 project, commonly known as the Cooper Landing Bypass.

“I know that’s not something that’s necessarily exciting, because people aren’t really gonna see the impact of that,” he said. “But it’s something that we need to go ahead and do well in advance of our starting bridge construction the following summer.”

Last summer, the department reconstructed the highway at the west end of the project, near Fuller Creek. This summer, they’ll start upgrading the existing highway on the east end, in Cooper Landing.

Also on the Central Peninsula, DOT is in the very early stages of a project to improve traffic at the junction of the Sterling and Seward Highways, by Tern Lake. Post said that could help with the high volume of summer traffic traveling from the peninsula up to Anchorage.

“The concept came out of a concern that it seems like we have more traffic during certain times of the year backing up on the Sterling Highway to head north-bound on the Seward Highway,” he said.

While southbound drivers getting on the Sterling Highway can simply merge on, the northbound flow from the Sterling to Seward highway is controlled by a stop sign. Post said that can cause a backup when there’s a high volume of traffic heading north.

The goal of the project is to see if DOT can create an uninterrupted flow of traffic for northbound drivers. The intersection is also a part of the interstate highway system, and the busiest highway corridor in the state.

“So that is one of the reasons why we put a lot of emphasis on that particular corridor,” Post said. “Because it has a huge impact on the economy on a statewide basis.”

However, that project is in very early stages, and Post said DOT hasn’t solidified details yet. The project’s manager estimates construction won’t begin for about three years — and that date may be heavily affected by weather, since the intersection is in an area of high avalanche activity.

For commuters traveling to and from the peninsula this summer, DOT also plans to continue work on the Portage Curve, at the bend of Turnagain arm.

Several smaller projects are planned across the peninsula this coming summer. They include the continuation of a rehabilitation project on the Seward Highway, mile 17 to 22.5, just south of Moose Pass, as well as several repaving efforts, including 10 miles of Cohoe Loop Road in Kasilof, Funny River Road in Soldotna and eight miles of the Seward Highway in Seward.

DOT Kenai Area Planner Joselyn Biloon said that last project, in Seward, won’t fully close down the highway.

“Because that’s the only surface transportation around, we always keep one lane open,” she said. “There’s usually flaggers, so you have to wait in line.”

Post said DOT will also accept contractor bids this year for several projects that will most likely happen in summer 2024. That includes improvements in the Sterling Highway Safety Corridor through Sterling, which will move onto the design stage, as well as a project from Anchor Point to Baycrest on the southern peninsula.

A rehabilitation project on the Kenai Spur Highway from Sports Lake Road to Swires Road, between Kenai and Soldotna, is in the design phase.

Several airport improvement projects are also planned within the next two years. DOT plans to work on the Homer Airport this summer, although this should not cause any closures. Other planned airport work includes a Seward Airport improvement project, relocation of the Nanwalek/Port Graham Airport expected to begin in the summer of 2025, and the rehabilitation of the Seldovia airport.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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