Knik Arm Bridge board to hold off on demolishing two businesses

ANCHORAGE — The state agency working to build a bridge across Knik Arm will not immediately demolish two Anchorage businesses that a neighborhood says are important to residents.

The Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority board this month approved a resolution saying a Tesoro gas station and a Subway restaurant can continue operating on Government Hill until a firm schedule for the project is in place, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The authority is negotiating to acquire land beneath the businesses. The possible destruction of key businesses in the path of the bridge drew complaints.

Authority board chairman Michael Foster said the board was clearing up confusion in its resolution Nov. 14, not changing direction.

“We will not require these businesses to leave or exit until we ... have a firm schedule when the project will begin,” Foster said. “If we get delayed a year or get delayed five years, the businesses will continue to be able to operate, if they so choose.”

Critics say the bridge and toll project will never pay for itself. The Government Hill Community Council contends it will damage the neighborhood and council president Stephanie Kesler said members were certain the authority intended to demolish businesses far in advance of the bridge project.

“There was never, ever, ever anything ever said certainly to the business owners that we’ve ever heard that ‘we’ll acquire it but we’ll let you keep it,’” Kesler said. “This resolution was the first time they ever said anything about that.”

The resolution is good for the community, she said.

“We are happy that two of our keystone businesses get to stay,” she said.

The Knik Arm Crossing proposes a 1.7-mile toll bridge and access roads. It has yet to obtain legislative financing and key federal permits. Supporters say it will provide quick access to undeveloped land in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

A legislative audit concluded that the authority was “unreasonably optimistic” in traffic and toll projections. The authority has its own independent review of traffic and revenue planned for release next month, Foster said.

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Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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