March 28, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 12

School sidewalk project extended

The Haines Borough has received an extra $350,000 to extend its Safe Routes to School sidewalk project from Third Avenue to East Fair Drive.

The Alaska Department of Transportation project originally received $625,000 in funding to construct a five-foot wide sidewalk along the north side of Old Haines Highway from Third Avenue to the school, but the project’s scope was amended to extend to Allen Road.

Keith Karpstein, DOT’s engineering manager for the Southeast region, said once the project reached the design phase several months ago, he realized the project was underfunded. “Once you get into actual design, you start to fine-tune what the quantities are... and we just realized the project was underestimated originally and we needed to seek that additional funding,” Karpstein said.

About $300,000 of the additional funding is to cover costs associated with the Third Avenue to Allen Road portion of the project; the other $50,000 is for the approximately 100 feet of sidewalk extension to East Fair Drive.

The project will include the installation of a crosswalk across Allen Road, and may also include one across Old Haines Highway. at the East Fair Drive intersection, Karpstein said.

Borough manager Mark Earnest wrote in a recent report that the project expansion “would allow pedestrians to walk on Fair Drive to Old Haines Highway then be able to cross the highway and proceed toward the school on concrete sidewalks. It will accommodate school children and others that travel from the (Chilkoot Estates subdivision) to and from the school, as well as relieve pressure from those who currently use the roadway when traveling by foot to the fair grounds.”

Earnest said the state’s decision to provide the $350,000 is especially salient because it represents the entirety of the state’s Safe Routes to School budget. “That project is now at about $1 million. And what’s significant about that is that’s about the entire amount that the whole state of Alaska gets for that program for a year,” he said.

Karpstein said construction on the project should begin toward the end of summer and be completed by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.  

According to the borough’s Safe Routes to School plan, 45 percent of the walking/biking school population uses the section of Old Haines Highway from Third Avenue to Allen Road to get to school. Currently they must travel on the shoulder due to a lack of a sidewalk.