Project Description

Background  TO TOP

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.

Purpose and Need  TO TOP

There are three major needs that the MP 45–60 Project addresses:

  • Need 1: Reduce Highway Congestion.
  • Need 2: Meet Current Highway Design Standards.
  • Need 3: Improve Highway Safety.

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.

Project Benefits  TO TOP

  • Increase safety for motorists and pedestrians,
  • Improve access to local properties and recreation opportunities along the existing highway,
  • Improve travel time through the area,
  • Reduce the risk of fuel spills in the Kenai River by moving some traffic away from the river, and
  • Reduce noise, dust, and traffic in Cooper Landing proper.

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 Issues  TO TOP

The SEIS process considers several important issues. These include:

  • Increased traffic flow and safety in areas where there are many vehicles turning onto and off of the highway.
  • How to balance the need for safe and efficient transportation and the potential social, economic, and environmental impacts
  • How to balance local desires to keep traffic passing existing businesses with alternatives that would route traffic away from existing businesses.
  • The potential changes in the community of Cooper Landing that may result from a highway upgrade.
  • How to balance desires to avoid impacts to Kenai River with desires to avoid impacts to bear, moose, and other wildlife habitat and movement corridors.
  • How Cooper Landing area’s undeveloped private, borough, and state lands are likely to develop with and without the project.
  • Impacts to Federal public lands important for recreation, cultural resources, and wildlife protection.
  • An evaluation of “Least Overall Harm” to support decision making.