East Hill Road will be closed from Aug. 1-12 as part of a summerlong construction project.
Two drainage pipes beneath the road have rusted out and need to be replaced and upsized, Jason Baxley, Project Engineer with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said.
The first pipe is located just below South Slope Road and is about 20 feet under the surface of East Hill Road. Replacement of the second pipe, located below Willow Drive, will also require digging down about 20 feet. Each replacement should take about five to six days, Baxley said.
The damaged pipes were discovered by the construction team during work on the current project on East Hill Road, wherein they were performing regular road care and surveillance. It is necessary to replace the drainage pipes quickly so “the road doesn’t wash out,” Baxley said.
He said the project is happening before school starts to avoid affecting bus schedules.
The fact that West Hill Road will also be under construction does not mean two vital roads will be closed at the same time, Baxley said. He expects the work taking place on West Hill Road to not require any closures, which will allow cars to pass through, albeit with flaggers making stoppages.
Baxley said the construction work “should have been done sooner … but we’re doing it as soon as we can.” Summers in Alaska provide only a brief window of feasible weather in which to complete construction projects, so the list of needs grows longer without ability to satisfy all of them. Baxley, however, added that the “general public has been receptive of us.”
Skyline Ridge resident Dave Lyon, owner of Ashore Water Taxi, said the project will be a “major inconvenience.”
The reroute will take him down West Hill Road on his way to the spit, or even Diamond Ridge Road should problems occur there, he said.
Lyon said more of a heads up about the project should have been given and that the lack of communication will drastically hinder those with inflexible schedules.
“There didn’t seem to be any indication they were going to tell anybody,” Lyon said.
He also worried about the increased costs associated with the reroute — which he said could double his daily fuel bill.
On the question of how Homer citizens can find information about road construction and closures, Baxley said the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will be using message boards posted at the site, in addition to Homer Communications and Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Facebook pages, as well as the Alaska navigator website www.alaskanavigator.org.