Lake-Heath connection now open

There were no brass bands and no city officials with big scissors cutting a ribbon, but at the end of the work day on Aug. 15, the city opened a new stretch of Grubstake Avenue connecting Heath Street and Lake Street. Homer Public Works Director Carey Meyer had said earlier that though paving had been done, the city would wait until striping was finished to open the new street.

But on Aug. 15 when Meyer talked with the contractor, East Road Services, and found it would be awhile before striping was done, he decided to open the new road.

“I said to the contractors, ‘Let’s just open this up.’ I think everybody can stay on their side of the road without a stripe,” Meyer said.

Contractors removed “road closed” signs and let traffic through at the end of the work day Aug. 15. By the next day, drivers had already begun using both the new stretch of Grubstake Avenue and a side street, Snowbird Street, that connects to the Homer Post Office and the Sterling Highway.

The city also plans to do repairs soon to East Bunnell Avenue, where a storm drain failure caused part of the road east of Main Street to be torn up.

Homer’s latest street runs east-west from the intersection of Smokey Bay Way at Lake Street to the intersection of Grubstake Avenue and Heath Street. Because the street is an extension of Grubstake Avenue, the new road also is called Grubstake Avenue.

Snowbird Street was formerly called Waddell Way. Before the new project, a section of paved road connected the Sterling Highway to the Homer Post Office. An unmaintained, rough gravel road offered a shortcut from that paved road between the post office and Lake Street.

In 2014, Homer received a $1.4 million grant from the Alaska Legislature to build the new roads. That was contingent on a 25-percent match from the city, to be paid from the Homer Accelerated Roads and Trails, or HART, fund. To connect to Grubstake, the road passes through a lot that contained nine cabins.

The city purchased for $855,000 that lot and the cabins, later selling the cabins for $95,000. The city also replatted the lot to include the road. As part of the replatting process, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission stipulated the roads be renamed to fit its regulations that roads have unique names. There also is a Waddell Street off Crittenden Drive. The Waddell name honors the pioneer Waddell family.

The Homer City Council appropriated $570,750 from the HART fund as the city’s match to the state grant. Contractor East Road Services won the bid at $925,570 to build the new roads. Meyer said the overall project came in under budget. The lower cost allowed the city to connect to sidewalks on the east side of Heath Street. There isn’t a sidewalk on the library side of Heath Street, but a sidewalk runs through the library property from Hazel Avenue to the library and a trail to the Poopdeck Trail that links Hazel Avenue behind Safeway to Pioneer Avenue.

Meyer said the city doesn’t plan pedestrian crossings where Grubstake Avenue connects at Heath Street and Lake Street. However, those could be done in the future if safety needs warrant it, Meyer said.

On East Bunnell Avenue, Meyer said the city will open bids soon on repairs to the storm drain system and the road. The storm drain will be repaired with a slip line, a plastic liner that is slipped into the existing storm drain line and then pressed against the old line using compressed air. Ultraviolet lights run through the line then cause resin in the plastic to cure and harden. That method is about 70 percent of the cost of tearing up the line, Meyer said, and also reduces traffic impact. East Bunnell Avenue includes several businesses and also is the access to Beluga Place, the road to Bishop’s Beach.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at