Assembly OKs road extension in West Douglas

$2.9 million would fund 'substandard' road to planned port

Posted: Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Assembly agreed at a special meeting Monday evening to use $2.9 million of state money to extend the West Douglas road.

City Manager Rod Swope said with the $2.9 million, the city currently estimates it will be able to study and determine road alignment, clear timber and build a "substandard" road - not the quality of the current North Douglas Highway, but passable - to the point a deep-water port is proposed.

Assembly member Jonathan Anderson said this is about three miles of road extension - not all the way to Point Hilda, where the proposed extension would end, but around two-thirds of the way there.

The $2.9 million was originally approved by Gov. Frank Murkowski for Gastineau Channel dredging. Its possible uses were later amended to include an environmental impact study for the proposed North Douglas Crossing or an extension of the West Douglas road.

Though the city recently received a memorandum from a consultant indicating the North Douglas Crossing does not face insurmountable permitting obstacles, the permitting process through which it must pass is still stringent, and a full environmental impact study would likely cost more than $10 million.

"We've got a long road to hoe ahead of that. This is something that can happen now," Anderson said.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford added that the city put $1.3 million in the rainy day fund a few years ago. At the time, the Assembly suggested the money be allocated toward the West Douglas road extension.

"The Assembly should not feel bad about using that money for that purpose," he said.

Together, Goldbelt Inc. and the city have about 5,000 acres of land on West Douglas between Outer Point and Point Hilda. The city has about 3,434 acres and Goldbelt has about 1,740 acres.

Both Goldbelt and the city are considering a revised memorandum of agreement for development of the road extension. An agreement reached in 1999 has expired.

The Assembly will consider the revised agreement March 22.

While both entities agree on the desirability of a road extension, road alignment will be "the sticky wicket," Anderson said.

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