Well, it's official: The Juneau Creek Alternative will be the route the Sterling Highway will take in future years as it skirts around Cooper Landing. The decision was made final on Thursday by the Federal Highway Administration.
The 14-mile bypass has been under consideration for decades as traffic and development along the Kenai River exploded, resulting in congestion and increased accidents. In addition to the new roadway on the mountainside north of the river the road will be widened and straightened in the portions it shares with the current highway at its east and west ends, approximately miles 45-to-47 and 56-to-58.
The 10 new miles of construction will include four wildlife underpasses, the state's first wildlife overpass and the state's longest single-span bridge.
The bridge will cross Juneau Creek just south of the Juneau Creek Falls. Both the Resurrection Pass and Bean Creek trails will cross under the bridge. There will also be pull outs and a parking area to access the trails.
Of the four options under consideration, the Juneau Creek Alternative is the least costly at $280.1 million. Federal highway funds will pay for 90 percent of that, while the state is responsible for the other 10 percent, or $28 million.
All of the alternatives considered -- except for the "no-build" option -- bypass the bulk of the Cooper Landing community, including almost all roadside businesses that depend in part on impulse stops by highway travelers. The highway planners forecast that at least 70 percent of all traffic will use the new bypass.
According to the project web site, the design will begin this year, and the staged construction should begin by 2020, starting with the sections that overlap the current highway.