Construction starts on road, airport projects in Homer

Two long awaited Homer transportation projects will see work start this summer.

Utility work on a four-way traffic signal at Main Street and the Homer Bypass has already begun, and a temporary fix to Pioneer Avenue will be done before winter. Improvements also are underway at the Homer Airport.

Southcentral Construction of Anchorage won bids on all three projects. On the Homer Bypass between the Lake Street traffic signal and a new signal at Main Street, subcontractor Norther Powerline has been connecting the two signals with fiber optic cables. That will allow the signals to be coordinated so traffic flows smoothly between the two lights. The Main Street signal also will have cameras.

“It will be the latest, greatest new technology at the new intersection,” said Pat Harvey, project manager for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Road work and installation of poles won’t start at the Main Street and Bypass intersection until after July 4, Harvey said. Work should be done by Nov. 1, but possibly as soon as early September. Contractors will try to minimize traffic impacts as much as possible.

“We’re very conscious of that,” Harvey said. “We’re trying not to disrupt traffic more than we have to.”

When work is being done such as grinding up the road, flaggers will direct traffic, as they did last month when surveying was being done.

“It seems to work a lot better when we flag it than when it’s wide open,” Harvey said.

The new signal will have left-turn lanes with green arrow signals in both directions on the Bypass. The westbound direction also will have a right-turn lane. Main Street will not have turn lanes or what traffic engineers call a turn pocket. A green light will allow south- and northbound traffic on Main Street to cross the highway, but drivers making left turns will have to yield to oncoming traffic. There will not be left-turn green arrows. Sidewalk curb cuts at the intersection will be upgraded to the latest Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Harvey said the cost of the traffic signal is about $2.4 million, with about 95% of that paid for with federal transportation funds.

The Pioneer Avenue pavement preservation project won’t happen until 2020.

“Because we’re going to have the intersection torn up, we pushed the completion date of Pioneer back to 2020,” Harvey said.

However, having seen the miserable state of Pioneer Avenue at break-up, with potholes dotting the pavement at Heath Street and between Svedlund Street and Main Street, about a 1-inch thick asphalt overlay will be put on the road before freeze-up, Harvey said.

“That will hold it through the winter and make it easier to plow,” Harvey said. “Maintenance won’t have to put cones on the potholes.”

He emphasized that this fall’s work is not the permanent fix on Pioneer.

“This is to hold it together until we can grind it up and regrade,” Harvey said.

Rusting, rotten storm drain pipes running under Pioneer have caused the potholes. Some subsurface material has fallen into the pipes. Some sections of the 30-year-old pipe eventually will be replaced. Workers will try to tip the overlay so water drains into the gutter and not into ruts. The bid for the Pioneer Avenue project was about $2.7 million.

Work has begun on new lighting, perimeter fencing, runway, taxi way and apron improvements at the airport. Next week, workers will move the Runway 4 threshold on the west end. That work will be done at night after commercial flights with Ravn Air are done for the day.

DOT also plans to hold an open house later this summer on other planned Homer area transportation projects such as the Lake Street rehabilitation. Those meetings will be announced when details are set. For updates on road projects, visit www.alaskanavigator.org.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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