Heavy equipment surrounds the new Peters Creek bridge on the Old Glenn Highway. According to the Alaska Department of Transportation, the bridge is scheduled to open to regular vehicle traffic today.
STAR PHOTOs by Matt Tunseth
By the time you read this, there's a good chance the new Peters Creek bridge has already opened for business.
Alaska Department of Transportation project engineer Ted Meyer said on a rainy Monday, July 24 that contractor Granite Construction was putting the final touches on the bridge work, with paving and painting just waiting for dry weather.
"Looking at the forecast, it looks like Wednesday and Thursday (July 27 and 28) are going to be good," Meyer said.
If that's the case, Meyer said the bridge will be open today.
Damp weather had been the only thing holding up the project, which was scheduled to be completed on July 23.
The new bridge was built to replace a 61-year-old span that was removed earlier this year.
Replacing the old bridge is just one portion of the larger $12.7 million Old Glenn Highway reconstruction project, which has slowed traffic for the past three years along the road between Eagle River and Peters Creek. Workers have widened sections of the road, added shoulders and installed a bike path alongside the highway, which was once the only route between Anchorage and points north.
A worker with Granite Construction backs up along the Old Glenn, where a $12.7 million project to improve the area's former main street is nearing completion after three summers of work.
The entire project is nearly complete, and the main road has been paved. Meyer said crews will continue to work on minor details landscaping, guard rails and clearing construction debris through most of August.
"There's a lot of little things," he said.
But the lengthy waits behind flagging vehicles that area residents have come to live with are over, and Meyer said traffic should be flowing close to normally.
"The long delays should be over," he said.
That comes as welcome news to Kelly Kolb, who owns Forget Me Not Cottage on the Old Glenn. Kolb estimated sales this summer have been down as much as 70 percent due to the decreased traffic.
"This is the worst year for my business," said Kolb, who has owned the gift, collectibles and "borderline junk/antique" store for eight years.
Still, Kolb isn't one to complain.
"They've gotta do it," she said.
Despite the hassle of weaving through the construction, a few of Kolb's die-hards still made the trip to downtown Chugiak.
"They're treasure hunters," she said.
Chugiak's Dave DeCaprio has lived in the area for 32 years. He said workers with Granite Construction have gone out of their way to make the construction process as easy as possible for people who have no choice but to put up with the work.
"They've always been smiling and gracious," DeCaprio said.
Although he's had no problems with the actual construction, DeCaprio did question the need for a refurbished Old Glenn in the first place. There's already a bike path on the New Glenn, he argued, and the sleepy Old Glenn wasn't all that bad of a road.
"I never had problems with it before," he said.
Standing near several of the town site's oldest buildings including three former post offices DeCaprio said he's not sure improving the road was a step in the right direction.
"Have we made progress, or are we just getting too (darn) citified?" DeCaprio asked.
Sure, a fancy new road might have its benefits, he said. But at what cost?
"It would be nice if this was a scenic road not too far from Anchorage," he said. "Because now, how far away do you have to go from Anchorage to see a main thoroughfare that looks like Alaska? This doesn't look like Alaska anymore. Chugiak is a place of many places. This is generic."
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or email@example.com
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, July 27, 2011.