- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Transportation officials are planning to move forward with a proposal for Sterling Highway that would bypass Cooper Landing, a crowded recreation area in the summer.

Alaska’s Department of Transportation announced Friday that the preferred route would build 5.5 miles of highway farther from Kenai Lake, crossing the lower Juneau Creek and Kenai River, The Alaska Dispatch News reported (https://bit.ly/1YbpeH3 ).

Currently, the route runs to the south. Residents of Kenai Peninsula towns use Sterling Highway to connect to the rest of Alaska’s highway system.

Shannon McCarthy of the transportation department says the preferred route “avoids impacts to the trail systems and the designated wilderness.”

The department needs to get Federal Highway Administration approval before it can begin construction in 2018 as intended.



The $303.5 million project would also rebuild 8 miles of road for safety. The state is contributing $30 million, with federal dollars covering the remaining cost.

“This is a huge capacity improvement, a huge safety improvement,” McCarthy said.

Department officials hope to finish the project on the 65-year-old route by 2023. McCarthy said the most stringent environmental documentation was required due to the project’s location near a river used by salmon.

“It’s a very intriguing place in which to build because it is right next to the Kenai River that is hugely important to Alaskans and nationally,” McCarthy said.

Public comment is still being accepted for the proposal.

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com

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