Downtown street improvement projects slated for this summer

Mar 29, 2021

Downtown road projects hinge on state funds.
Credit Homer Public Works

The Alaska Department of Transportation has several projects in the Southern Peninsula on the drawing boards. Some of them are closer to initiation than others.
    For example, preliminary work to build a new bridge over the Anchor River is already underway, while funding may hold up rejuvenation of East Hill Road in Homer. But City Public Works Director Jan Keiser updated the city council on Monday, saying a vocal public might be pushing the cash-strapped state agency into action.
    “I get complaints about East Hill, and I got one today about West Hill, all the time.  Sowhat we know about East Hill is that they're ready to go.  But they have budgetary issues, as we all know. And they were planning to bid and constructed this year, but they were told to put, hold that off until they, they address some of their funding issues,” Keiser said. “But, then we heard that they were getting so many complaints that they were having to rethink that. So we haven't heard a final answer at that point. As far as we know, they're still pressing along with finishing their design and getting ready to go to bid.”
    Another project, on Lake Street, which connects the intersection of Pioneer Avenue and East End Road with the Homer Bypass, Keiser said DOT intends to reconstruct the road, requiring some utility work on the part of the city.
    “As they reconstruct Lake Street, they will be adjusting the grade. In some cases it will be higher. In some cases it'll be lower than where it is now. In cases where it is lower, they are affecting water and sewer service lines. And in some cases, valve boxes, manholes, and water and sewer mains. So when they do that, we need to lower the line and make other adjustments to accommodate the elevation change. So they told us that this was going to happen and they told us that they would reimburse us for our costs and dealing with them as they start construction we will probably have somebody out there. We'll have an inspector and Nelson engineering inspector out there full time watching after our stuff,” she said. “So we're not using staff time for that. And they're paying and the state is paying for that. We will have staff going to utility meetings to coordinate, to make sure that stuff is happening the way we expect it to. But I would say that's not a whole lot different than what we would do for a driveway permit or other kinds of development work.”
    But Keiser says the demands on staff will be much greater during the East Hill project.
    “Because they will be doing significant work there, and that's something that we'll take into consideration when we signed the agreement with them,” she said. “So they actually execute a contract with the city, which gives them the authority to pay the city money for these reimbursables. And we can negotiate what that level of effort looks like.”
    Keiser, who celebrated her first year with the city this month, said she will soon be presenting a consolidated public works capital improvement program to the council.
    “We can tell you that we've got a road financial plan, which you'll see later on in April  that shows how we have programmed major road, repairs, and reconstructions over time to a five-year window. We've now got a fleet replacement schedule that shows how we projected fleet replacement for public works vehicles. And we're happy to do the same for the other departments,  given the opportunity. Over a five-year period. We have a parks  capital plan over a five-year period, a water and sewer plan over about a three-year period. And we'll extend that out. We're in the process of extending that out. Some of it towards the last few years gets a little speculative, but there's always room for adjustment.”
    Not only does the plan look out three-to-five-years and estimate the costs associated, but Keiser said it also projects possible funding paths for them.