By Carey Restino
The southern Kenai Peninsula’s annual road construction virus has spread this week to the center of town, but construction crews promise that when it’s all said and done, the resulting 6 miles of blacktop, improved sidewalks, drainage and added riprap on the Homer Spit will be well worth any 10-minute traffic delays you might endure between now and next June.
A meeting will be held today from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Homer Chamber of Commerce for those wanting more information about the improvements, which will start where the Sterling Highway meets Pioneer Avenue and continue to the end of the Homer Spit Road. Construction already began last week in town, though the bulk of the work will be done at night for now. In mid-September, however, the road resurfacing part of the project will commence, said Jim Rasi, project engineer with the Department of Transportation.
This will likely not come as welcome news for anyone who has been enduring the washboard, potholes and stop-sign-holding flaggers on East End Road construction zone, which started this spring, and is expected to continue through October of next year.
But wait, there’s more.
Once out on the Homer Spit, dock users will be further inconvenienced this summer by a myriad of improvements at the harbor. A new harbor office is being constructed, for one. And two of the ramps will be out of commission at various times this summer, said Homer City Manager Walt Wrede.
Both Ramp 7 and Ramp 3, one of the most used ramps in the harbor, will be closed for renovation, and several of the floats in the harbor will also be replaced. Add to that a complete redo on the Homer load and launch ramp that will likely close half of the launch lanes at a time, and you’ve got yourself an exercise in patience.
“Assuming you can even get your car out to the harbor, it’s going to be a little difficult this late summer and fall,” said Wrede. “In the end these are all really good things, so we hope people will bear with us and be patient.”
Rasi echoed that sentiment, saying that crews are instructed not to allow wait times to go beyond 10 minutes and are hoping to keep most below five minutes. He said the paving project on the Homer Spit Road will not just provide the road with new pavement, but will also include improvements to some of the sidewalks (mainly in town) and some ditch work to improve drainage.
In addition, a portion of the Spit Road that is notoriously awash during high tides and stormy seas across from the barge basin will get an infusion of riprap, Rasi said. Curbs, gutters, signs and guardrails will also see improvements.
Rasi said paving will most likely start in town and work out to the end of the Spit, though that decision is still being made.
If there is a silver lining in this story of construction woes, it is the nearly completed installment of the new natural gas pipeline through town. Wrede said the final 4 or 5 miles of pipe are being installed now with the bulk of the remaining work being done on Kachemak Drive.
Wrede said unlike other areas in town, the Kachemak Drive road doesn’t have easements next to it for utilities. That means each time a line goes in, easements must be obtained from property owners along the road. That took quite some time, he said, but those have all finally been obtained. A little installation work is still being done on West Hill Road as well, and crews will be around town for a few more weeks reseeding sections of the line, and cleaning up from the project.
Once the work is completed in a few weeks, he said the city will be able to look through the final budget and determine the necessary assessments for city residents. Still up in the air is the decision on how to assess condo owners — an issue that has been successfully challenged in court. Wrede said the city is endeavoring to make a decision that is fair to all people in the city. A recommendation will be made in coming weeks to council, he said.
Meanwhile, he said drivers and harbor users should be aware that things will be moving a bit slower around town over the next few months while the construction work continues.
“It’s going to be a tough late summer and fall on the Spit,” he said. “Most of the (city) work will be done this fall. It’s going to be a juggling act, but we’re going to try to coordinate things to minimize disruptions.”
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