DOT buys properties, boards up buildings for Glenn Hwy expansion
Palmer commuters who drive the Glenn Highway will notice quite a few boarded up buildings on the north side of the road.
The Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) purchased those properties for its Glenn Highway 34-42 Project that will turn the road from two lanes to a four-lane divided highway similar to Trunk Road.
DOT’s project manager, Sean Baski, said there are some challenges with expanding a well-established highway. With the railroad on the south side, the only place to expand is to the north.
That means buying the right-of-way for more than 160 parcels.
“Those will be from small acquisitions from a corner of a property all to a full purchase of a property and relocation of a business or residents to other locations,” Baski explained.
The Noisy Goose Café is one of the businesses losing land. Owner Glenda Nafus said DOT bought a chunk in front of the café and will use most of their back parking lot for a new frontage road.
“The back is the issue because it was an empty lot we could park motorhomes, truck traffic, trucks pulling four wheelers, snow machines,” Nafus said.
They’re not only losing parking spots but highway access, as well. Nafus said Moore Road that runs next to the café will turn into a dead end and the only way in will be the frontage road.
“We get a lot of tourist traffic, that's our main business. It could have an impact because they could bypass it and not know how to get on the frontage road if they want to come back,” Nafus said.
Baski said the frontage road, along with stoplights, will provide better access to businesses and mitigate safety concerns. About 20,000 people drive that stretch of road every day; Baski said in the next 20 years that’s projected to hit 30,000.
“We have congestion at various times of the day, we hear a lot from people saying they can't get out on the highway. They feel like they're taking chances every time they have to turn onto the highway,” Baski said.
The project will be done in two phases. Phase 1—planned for 2018— goes from South Innerspringer Loop through town to Bogard Road. Baski said acquisition for that portion will be about $35 million and with an additional $30 million to $40 million for construction costs.
Phase 2 goes from the Parks Highway interchange to South Innerspringer Loop with construction likely beginning in 2020. DOT said 90 percent of the funding for the project is coming from federal funds.
Palmer resident Anne Zink said the improvements are overdue.
“I think separation between the lanes are key. There have been some areas where people turn that are notorious for accidents. We've seen at the hospital accidents from one specific turn. I think it will be great to have a split lane,” she said.
Nafus said she thinks a four-lane highway is too much and would have been happy with putting in an additional turn lane.
The expansion is needed, Baski said, to keep up with the constant growth in the Valley.
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