New footbridge preferred over widening Skagway bridge

By JEFF BRADY
Representatives from the Alaska Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities told about a dozen citizens Monday that the state prefers to build a new footbridge over the Skagway River to the Seventh Pasture recreation area, rather than widening the existing highway bridge at the north end of town.
The project will have $1.32 million available for design and construction. The alternatives, within that budget, included:
• Widening the highway bridge by 6.5 feet, with a curb separating highway and foot traffic, for an estimated $1.195 million.
• A new 6-feet-wide pedestrian bridge that parallels the highway bridge, for $1.13 million.
• A new 8-feet-wide pedestrian bridge that also parallels the highway bridge for $1.295 million (a 10-feet-wide bridge costing $1.43 million was rejected for now, but may be offered as a bid alternative).
Most of those attending the public hearing sided with the third alternative because the city would get a wider pathway for about the same cost as widening the bridge. It would accommodate pedestrians as well as bicycles, although it would not be wide enough to be considered a bike path.
The project will be built with 90 percent federal funds, and was moved up on the State Transportation Improvement Project (STIP) list for the FY 2003 budget when the City of Skagway committed to paying the other 10 percent, said Lars Gregovich, the state’s project engineer.
The next step for the project will be an environmental review. Project environmental coordinator Kathryn Erickson briefly explained this process which includes surveying effects on water quality, foot and vehicle traffic, and other issues that must satisfy the Federal Highway Administration. Upon FHA approval, the project would enter a permitting phase. Ideally, Gregovich said, the project could go out for bid in late summer, and construction could occur next winter.
Since the Seventh Pasture ball field was completed three years ago, the city has been pushing the state to have the widening project put on its calendar, because of increased bike and foot traffic over the highway bridge. This timetable pleased the audience, which did not want the project to wait beyond 2003. “The sooner the better,” said John Tronrud.
The new bridge would be about 15 feet south of the highway bridge. It would be on pilings that would line up with the pilings on the existing bridge, and the highway bridge could be used for staging during construction. The state didn’t want the footbridge any closer, in case it has to widen the highway bridge some day.
Audience members debated whether the new footbridge’s decking should be metal grate (like the Yakutania Pt. footbridge) or concrete. Although metal grate is easier to maintain (snow and ices fall through it) there have been concerns about what it does to dogs’ feet, bike tires, and people who have difficulty with heights. Most in attendance preferred concrete, even though the city would have to plow it with its ATV. The city has agreed to maintain the footbridge.
Lighting was a big concern as well. City councilmember Dave Hunz said a lighted footbridge with radiant light spilling over to the highway bridge would be a safety benefit. Mayor Tim Bourcy and Hunz also suggested having stub-ins added for possibly tying in water and sewer pipes in the future.
These additions may be built into alternative bid proposals. If they push the project over budget, then either the city would have to cover the added cost or they’d have to go to the Legislature for additional money.

New AML transfer bridge taking shape

A Hamilton Construction crew drives piling for new dolphins adjacent to the new Alaska Marine Lines barge-loading dock (right) in the Ore Terminal basin last week. - Jeff Brady

The new barge-loading facility should be completed in about three weeks, said David Miller, AML’s project engineer, despite a setback last weekend. A couple days after this photo was taken, high southerly winds drove the barge into one of the new pilings and bent it. The piling had to be removed and re-driven, Miller said.
The new facility, which replaces the old Stardancer Ramp, is being constructed on city tidelands leased to White Pass. A sublease agreement for AML to move its operation to the site was approved last year, and the company already has a new office on the upland staging area.
The container handling facility, known as a pass-pass dock, is 120 feet long and is capable of handling 200,000-pound axle loads, Miller said. The old ramp was rated at just 64,000 pounds.
In addition to the new ramp and its three dolphins, two additional mooring dolphins are being installed next to the north portion of the Ore Dock. White Pass, which owns the Ore Dock, donated some piling for the project, he added.
Once completed, the project will cost about $600,000, Miller said. All water work must be completed by March 15, and after that there will be some concrete work on the approaches before it’s ready for use this spring. – JEFF BRADY