Originally completed in 1950, the Sterling Highway is the only road that links western Kenai Peninsula communities (Kenai, Soldotna, and Homer) to the rest of the state. Since 1978, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) has recognized the need for improved safety and traffic flow to accommodate the increased Kenai population growth, recreation, and tourism.
In April 2015, DOT&PF released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation that examines alternatives for improvements to the Sterling Highway between mileposts (MP) 45 and 60.
In December 2015, DOT&PF and FHWA announced the identification of G South Alternative as the preferred alternative for the Sterling Highway MP 45-60 project. The G South Alternative provides the best balance between meeting the project needs and minimizing impacts to the human and natural environment. The routing avoids impacts to the Resurrection Pass Trail, the Juneau Falls Recreation Area and important cultural properties, and avoids using designated wilderness land within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The alternative skirts the Cooper Landing community to reduce community impacts associated with traffic, noise and property acquisition.
This alternative would construct 5.5 miles of new alignment skirting north of Cooper Landing and the Kenai River, reconnecting with the existing alignment near MP 52. This alternative would include construction of three bridges—one replacing an existing bridge over the Kenai River and two new bridges, a large bridge over lower Juneau Creek, and one new bridge over the Kenai River. Additionally, 8 miles of the existing highway would be reconstructed.
There are three major needs that the MP 45–60 Project addresses:
The purpose of the project is to bring the highway up to current standards for a rural principal arterial to efficiently and safely serve through-traffic, local community traffic, and traffic bound for recreation destinations in the area, both now and in the future. In achieving this transportation purpose, DOT&PF and FHWA recognize the importance of protecting the Kenai River corridor.
None of the alternatives would induce further residential or commercial development more than would be anticipated under the No Build Alternative because of DOT&PF’s decision to prohibit driveway or side street access to new sections of highway from adjacent property.
The SEIS process considers several important issues. These include: