Alaska has two seasons, sourdoughs like to say: winter and road construction. Homer citizens got an update on the current season with a “6 in 1 Open House” about local projects at Homer City Hall on Tuesday.
Future road projects may be in jeopardy with the failure of the Alaska Legislature to pass a fiscal year 2020 capital projects appropriation bill that would fund projects for next year. Three current projects awarded to Southcentral Construction were funded in the fiscal year 2019 appropriation and will go on as scheduled, but three 2020 or 2021 projects in the planning or design stage could be delayed if the Legislature doesn’t cough up capital project money.
Funding for most of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities comes from a 90-95% federal match, with the state kicking in the balance. If the state doesn’t do that, the federal money could go to other states.
“We don’t think the Legislature is going to be irresponsible enough to leave $1 billion on the table,” said Matt Shuckerow, a spokesperson for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, of the federal match.
Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, voted against a capital budget appropriation that would have been partially funded by the Constitutional Budget Reserve. In her June 21 newsletter, Vance said she didn’t think that was fiscally responsible.
At Tuesday’s open house, DOT officials, engineers with HDL Engineering Consultants and contractors with Southcentral Construction met with citizens to talk about three current and three proposed projects. The current projects funded this year are:
• 2019: Homer Airport safety improvements to rebuild taxiway safety areas, replace a perimeter safety fence, relocate the main wind cone and relocate a supplemental wind cone;
• 2019: Sterling Highway (Homer Bypass) and Main Street intersection improvement to install a traffic signal with turn lanes, and
• 2019-2020: Pioneer Avenue pavement preservation, to grind, reshape and pave the road to remove ruts, cracks and potholes.
The future projects in the design or right-of-way acquisition phase are:
• 2020: Lake Street rehabilitation from Pioneer Avenue/East End Road to the Sterling Highway (Homer Bypass), to widen the road and add bikes lanes; reconstruct curbs, gutters, and sidewalks; and improve drainage;
• 2020: West Hill Road pavement preservation, to resurface the length of the road from the Sterling Highway to Diamond Ridge Road; and
•2021: East Hill Road pavement preservation, to resurface the length of the road from East End Road to Skyline Drive.
Work has already started on the Homer Airport project, and construction is finished on runways that prompted evening closures. That closure is now over.
Subcontractor Northern Powerline also has finished utility work to connect Homer’s only current full traffic signal at Lake Street and Homer Bypass Road to the new signal at Main Street.
Southcentral Construction will start road work after the July 4 holiday, and Northern Powerline also will start installing signal poles then. Work on the traffic signal should be done by the end of August.
Southcentral Construction also has the contract for pavement presevation on Pioneer Avenue. They will start work on Pioneer Avenue after August, with the goal of getting a 1-inch overlay of asphalt on the road to minimize potholes over the winter and next breakup.
The Pioneer Avenue project will fix hazards that have been a longtime subject of complaint: poor sightlines at West Pioneer Avenue and the Bypass, and at Pioneer Avenue and Svedlund Street. Nick Oliveira, a civil engineer with HDL Engineering Consultants, Anchorage, said the West Pioneer Avenue corner will have hills at either side cut back so that drivers turning from Pioneer Avenue onto the Bypass can have a better view of oncoming traffic.
A retaining wall in front of the Pioneer Car Wash at the corner of Svedlund Street and Pioneer Avenue also will be pushed back. A utility pole also will be removed, with utilities put underground there.
The Pioneer Avenue project also will include sidewalk improvements at intersections to make curb cuts compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Some damaged sidewalk areas also will be fixed.
A pedestrian crosswalk on Pioneer Avenue near Svedlund Street will be moved a short distance to the east, so that the crosswalk meets with the entrance to the Poopdeck Trail just west of the Grog Shop.
Homer Mayor Ken Castner attended Tuesday’s meeting and raised concerns about another set of crosswalks — the ones at the East Pioneer Avenue-East End Road and Lake Street intersection.
“It’s just poorly designed for pedestrians,” Castner said.
As work proceeds on area projects this summer, ADOT&PF posts updates online with road delays, detours or closures at www.alaskanavigator.org.