Municipality to consider bonds for road improvements in limited access areas

Many of the houses in Anchorage's Hillside area currently have limited access, and a lack...
Many of the houses in Anchorage's Hillside area currently have limited access, and a lack evacuation options in the event of a disaster. (KTUU)
Published: Oct. 29, 2019 at 7:15 PM AKDT
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In 2016, the McHugh Fire burned too close for comfort, prompting officials with the Municipality of Anchorage to carry out a study in the Hillside community. Anchorage Fire Department Captain Joe Albrecht issued a report that identified five of the areas in question, in respect to the service area of AFD Engine Company 10, unfortunately many of these problems have gone unaddressed over the years.

Anchorage Assemblyman John Weddleton believes that a new solution, to create more escape routes, could be to address these projects with federal dollars, appropriated specifically for (AMATS) Anchorage Municipal Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions- the municipal planning organization for the Anchorage Bowl and Chugiak-Eagle River, specifically when federal transportation funds are used.

Weddleton says that the bonds require a 10% match, which he refers to as a "bargain."

"Hillside is a major area, Girdwood, Turnagain Arm, Eagle River ... but even within Anchorage, there's some road connections missing." he said.

Some of the smaller projects, like a connection at Birch and Dearmoun Roads could likely be bonded out with no help from the federal government; however, Weddleton says a few of the issues -particularly in the Hillside area- would be costly without federal money.

"At Mountain Air Drive, you could connect Bear Valley through Jamie Avenue and Shangri-Lah Estates," he told KTUU on Tuesday. "That would be secondary access for hundreds of homes that are currently one way in and one way out, but that would cost millions."

The ordinance will appear before the assembly for the first time on November 5th. If approved, work would begin on a list of potential projects that would ultimately go to the voters on April ballots.

Many residents in the Hillside area say these connecting roads are long overdue. Liz Hudson and her husband Glenn built a house there in 1983. Since then, she says the construction over houses and schools in the area has compounded traffic at rates that road construction can't keep pace with. Hudson pointed to the McHugh Creek Fire and a small fire at Service High earlier this summer as close calls, with no plan in place to get people out of harms way, Hudson is supportive of the ordinance and a possible bond.

"It's happening more and more," she said. "It's almost a matter of not 'if' but 'when' ... and are we going to be prepared for it?"