Earlier this week DOWL HKM engineering and the Alaska Department of Transportation held an open house at East High School, presenting the preferred U-Med Access route.
The new road is the most direct and would connect Elmore to Bragaw near the western edge of the Alaska Pacific University campus, bordering the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Stewart Osgood is the president of DOWL HKM. He says now that the alignment is selected, the firm will submit an application to the Army Corps of Engineers to get a permit to fill in the wetlands the road will go through.
“We typically classify wetlands into relative ecological values,” Osgood said. “And so, working with the Corps, we’ll identify the wetlands that are the most valuable, avoid them and try to stay on uplands or on lower-quality wetlands with our alignment.”
The chosen route has $1 million set aside for environmental mitigation – which is the largest amount of the four potential routes. Osgood says those funds could be used on a variety of things during the construction and design process.
“The mitigation number that we have here is to both change the alignment of the roadway, potentially to bridge over small sections of wetlands, and also to, in the end, if we are unable to avoid wetlands, we pay into fee in lieu of mitigation, into a wetlands bank that allows land to be purchased elsewhere that can go into conservation easements or some sort of trust to allow them to be preserved forever,” Osgood said.
A number of residents attended the meeting and voiced their dissent that the road would proceed without adequately considering the effect it could have on surrounding areas.
“We believe that before any construction is done whatsoever, that it’s imperative that the public know the true cost, the true total cost, and that includes the social, the environmental, the safety costs – period,” Dr. Peter Mjos, a past president of the Rogers Park Community Council, said.
He said residents have had limited opportunities for discussion and input since the legislature approved funding for the road last year.
“We’ve been placed in a position where we must simply look at mitigation efforts, and we are not comfortable with that,” Mjos said.
If the company is successful in securing permits needed for the wetlands area, work on the road could begin within a year. DOWL HKM expects the road to open in late 2015.