The state department of transportation released its first draft of a plan to reroute the Sterling Highway around Cooper Landing.
Officially, we’re looking at a draft supplemental environmental impact statement and draft selection for the Sterling Highway between mileposts 45 and 60. The long-sought-after Cooper Landing Bypass.
“We have four different build alternatives that just take a look at the area and offer different options of how to improve the highway,” says DOT spokesperson Shannon McCarthy.
The cheapest of all those options is of course to do nothing. But this particular stretch of highway has some problems. It’s slow and winding, there are a bunch of hidden driveways to dodge, it’s really busy in the summer and not the comfiest bit of driving for RV’s and semi’s, plus, it doesn’t meet certain federal standards for rural highways anymore.
The four alternatives range in cost from $250 to more than $300 million. One path would take travelers south of Cooper Landing over 3.5 miles of new road, including new bridges over the Kenai river and an additional one over Cooper Creek. Two plans would send the road further north and across Juneau Creek, while a fourth would also carve a path to the north, but avoid Juneau Creek falls and the Resurrection Pass Trail.
“We really do need the public to review this, to weigh in, give us their comments and then we can take that information forward and make a final determination with the federal highway administration,” McCarthy says.
The public comment period is open through May 26th, but in some ways, it’s been open a lot longer than that. The first draft plan for a Cooper Landing Bypass was drawn up in 1982. That was shelved and brought up again in 1994. And since 2000, this current plan has been slowly put together. The project time line shows a decision on a bypass being made some time next year, with construction beginning as soon as 2018.