Alaska’s congressional delegation and Gov. Bill Walker have all signed off on a letter asking the Interior Department to settle the question of what route the proposed Cooper Landing highway bypass will take.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, along with the governor, say in the letter that the federal government’s proposed route, called the G-South Alternative, is more expensive than necessary and doesn’t do as much to mitigate the traffic dangers and environmental impacts as other routes.
Of all the options, this one sticks closest to the current path of the Sterling Highway. A bonus is that it would avoid the Resurrection Pass Trail and Juneau Creek Falls area, but it also calls for the construction of three bridges — two new ones and a remodel of the current bridge over the Kenai River at the outlet of Kenai Lake.
Instead, the delegation wants what’s called the Juneau Creek Alternative. This one takes the new section of highway farthest away from Cooper Landing, cutting the road into the hillside north of town and adding what would be the longest single-span bridge in the state over Juneau Creek. It would also mean rerouting portions of the Resurrection Pass and Bean Creek trails, allowing hikers to pass through the area underneath the bridge.
In addition to the cost differences of the two proposals, the letter challenges the decision-making process used by the feds to get to their proposed route. They say it’s based on a very narrow reading of the 1966 Federal Highway Act and doesn’t place a high enough value on preserving fish and wildlife habitat.
The letter comes before a final decision on where the road will be placed, published in a Record of Decision, which is expected out later this fall.