AGDC announces Spur highway reroute plan

Jun 21, 2018

 

Credit Alaska Gasline Development Corporation

After years of waiting, Nikiski residents finally found out what path the Kenai Spur highway will take around the proposed AK LNG plant Wednesday night.

 

 

Alaska Gasline Development Corporation pipeline management engineer Dr. Keith Meyer spent the better part of an hour before Wednesday night’s meeting going over the planned reroute with residents at the Nikiski Rec Center.

The new section of highway will peel off the existing road at milepost 19, just south of Miller Loop. It will run inland of the LNG operations area for almost two miles before connecting back to Miller Loop near Cabin Lake, then rejoining the highway at milepost 21. It’s called the West Alternative. More than a dozen routes were looked at over the past three years. Meyer says this one’s the cheapest and, because it avoids wetlands, would be the fastest to get permitted. He thinks it could get the green light in a year and a half.

“(If) you’ve been around construction, that’s fast. Working with the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), with wetlands, would take 18 months in itself.”

The preferred path from residents was what’s known as the McGann alternative. Longtime North Roader Richard McGann proposed that route. While that one would have largely taken private properties out of the equation, it was also a lot longer, would have travelled through lots of wetlands and cost the most.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the residents I spoke with who live near Cabin Lake, roughly where the new road would tie in to Miller Loop, aren’t thrilled.

“It will be west of Cabin Lake, but they will put in an intersection to the new highway into Cabin Lake Road. That’s where I have to go home. So that’s going to be a nightmare," said Vicki Johnson.

 

One of her neighbors, Dave Phegley, says there's still an opportunity to make the project sit well with locals, though the odds of that aren't good.

“My opinion is they’ve held a lot of people up here for a long time. There’s a lot of people who have a lot of value in their home. Probably most of the value they have in their life is in their home. And there’s a lot of older people who would like to retire and sell their house and move on with their lives and this is just holding us up. And it’s not good. I’ve moved away, I’m losing money on my house, can’t sell it. I’m right there in the back door and the road looks like it’s going to go right by my house and a 3,000 man camp is going to go really close, too. When they want to buy everybody out, at a fair price, then I think everybody will be okay at that point. I think that’s what needs to happen. It could be a win win, with enough money," Phegley said with a laugh.

 

But right now, AGDC hasn’t secured the funding for the reroute, so all of this is pending further financing for the project, be it from the state or outside investors.

 

Dreams of a bike and pedestrian-friendly five lane path were also laid to rest Wednesday night. The new highway will remain two lanes, with eight foot shoulders to accommodate bikes and pedestrians, and per the state, the speed limit will still be 55 miles per hour. AGDC says if it secures more investment money, the highway part of the project could begin as soon as 2020.

 

*This story has been updated. We mistakenly identified Dr. Keith Meyer as President of AGDC. We regret the error.