The long-planned widening of the Knik-Goose Bay road will be under way early next year, state transportation officials told legislators in a briefing on highways last Tuesday.
Design work is almost finished and the Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities is in negotiation with property owners for right-of-way acquisition and plans are to advertise for bids for the project’s first phase at the beginning of 2022, Wolfgang Junger, DOTPF’s central region director, told the Senate Transportation Committee.
“This is now our highest priority in the region,” Junge told the legislators.
Traffic is congested on the road, which now has two lanes, and it now become a serious safety problem due to a high number of accidents. The project will widen the road from two to four lanes.
Junge said DOTPF will be offering an incentive for property owners to sign early on right-of-way acquisitions. The state will pay 20 percent above market value if property owners sign agreements to sell within 90 days, he said.
A similar incentive was offered on a recent Glenn Highway expansion near Palmer and all but one property owners along the right-of-way agreed to it, which left DOTPF having to use its eminent domain powers only once.
Another high-priority project is a highway roundabout planned at Bogard and Engstrom roads, which has become a dangerous intersection with the growth of traffic. This construction is now planned for 2023 and 2024, Junge told the committee.
Mat-Su Sen. Mike Shower, a member of the transportation committee, said he was frustrated by the slow pace on both projects. “This is a safety issue. We are the fastest-growing region of the state and we’re now bigger than Fairbanks,” he said.
“Fairbanks has a lot of four and eight-lane roads, and we’re stuck with two-lane roads,” Shower said.
Overall, Southcentral Alaska will see a big surge in road construction activity this year with $460 million in 40 projects planned this summer, up from $196 million last year, Junge said. Projects are of all types including highway and airport rehabilitation and reconstruction. Outside of the Mat-Su region other big projects include another phase of Sterling Highway construction near Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsula, a $500 million project planned for completion in 2025.
A number of projects are also planned on the Richardson Highway north and south of Glennallen, which will mean frequent wait times for drivers and require close coordination with truckers operating from Valdez to Fairbanks, Junge said.