Assembly considers response to new Seward underpass

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Right now a fence separates Academy drive from the Seward highway, but in a few years' time, it could be an underpass.

The assembly budget committee considers different options to develop Academy Drive.

“There is a significant state project which plans to bring Scooter Avenue under the highway," said Municipal Manager Bill Falsey at an Anchorage Assembly Budget Committee meeting Wednesday.

The underpass is currently in the design phase with the Department of Transportation. Its final form depends, in part, on how the Municipality wants to develop the land around it. Now, the assembly is questioning how, and whether or not to do it at all.

“Let's talk about what happens if we just wait a year, to get the state legislature time to learn more about this," said Assembly member Meg Zalatel.

Currently the 2020 budget includes a $4 million bond to begin funding a project that would expand Academy Drive to deal with the increased traffic.

“We're not just talking about $4 million,” said Budget Committee Co-Chair Forrest Dunbar. “We're talking about a $20 million project over 3 years."

But some in the assembly questioned whether the underpass was even necessary.

“I think the state is wasting money, punching through a road, somewhere they don't really need to," Dunbar said.

Others say it's unlikely the project can even be stopped at this point.

“Right now my understanding of the state's schedule is they are proposing to fund this in '21, begin construction in '22, and complete it in '23," said Municipal Project Management and Engineering Department Director Kent Kohlhase.

So for now, the assembly is considering the most effective way forward, in terms of cost,and traffic. Any changes to the 2020 budget will need to be made before Nov. 19, when the assembly is scheduled to vote on it.

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