“We just go step by step; everything we get is awesome,” said Sandra West, a member of the borough’s parks and recreation advisory board who has suggested a trail to Coast Guard Base Kodiak for almost nine years.
But as the city of Kodiak makes preparations for the 1.3-mile first leg of the project, new concerns are being raised about the project’s cost.
In a Sept. 20 borough assembly meeting, assemblyman Mel Stephens voted against a borough capital projects list that requests funding for the second phase of the project, which falls outside city limits.
In his testimony, Stephens referred to a 2010 DOWL HKM engineering estimate that stated in plain English that it would take $66.7 million to complete 19.4 miles of asphalt trail linking White Sands and Bells Flats to Kodiak’s city trail network.
“That would be great in a fantasyland, but I just can’t bring myself to support the expenditure of local, state and federal moneys,” he said at the meeting.
The request, which passed despite the objections of Stephens and assemblywoman Louise Stutes, asks the Alaska Legislature for $11.4 million to complete the second phase, 6 miles of trails from Deadman’s Curve to the Coast Guard main gate.
“Ask for the universe, and if you get the moon, you did well,” said West when describing the strategy trails supporters have employed to date.
Thus far, that strategy has paid off.
Bike projects connected to the master plan have repeatedly appeared on city and borough funding requests, and last year the state placed the 1.3-mile first leg — from Pier 2 to Deadman’s Curve — on a schedule that calls for building the leg by 2015 with almost $3.5 million in federal highway funds.
“Kodiak hasn’t paid for it yet,” West said.
If costs keep rising, it might, said city manager Aimee Kniaziowski. Next week, the city council will hear a progress report on the first leg. “The cost has grown substantially,” she said when asked to summarize the report.
Details will be revealed Oct. 9, but if the cost rises beyond the available federal and state grants, the city may be asked to step up to the plate.
That could be an obstacle if a reluctant city council is asked to pay for a trail along a route that few people use even in good weather.
No statistics are kept on bike travel in the Kodiak Island Borough, but West says to detractors that there are more bikers than commonly thought. “It’s pretty amazing how many people ride out there,” she said.
Interim borough manager Bud Cassidy said the corridor from the base to city limits is the most heavily used other than the established trail along Rezanof Drive to Fort Abercrombie.
West herself started commuting by bike daily from her home on Spruce Cape to the Coast Guard base about nine years ago, and she rattled off the names of a dozen other people who have similar commutes.
“There wasn’t very many, but now there’s quite a few because they see it’s doable,” she said.
First, however, the trail needs to reach city limits. If the city council is reluctant to provide additional funding, West said the project could be scaled back, starting at Pier 3 instead of Pier 2 in order to save money.
The trail could then be finished as part of the new Pier 3 project.
Even if that 1.3-mile section of trail is eventually finished, this was supposed to be the easy part of the project.
The estimate for the second phase of the project, from Deadman’s Curve to the Coast Guard base, is $11.7 million. Going to Bell’s Flats is another $26.5 million. On the opposite side of town, the cost of a trail from Otmeloi Way to White Sands Beach was estimated at $25.5 million.
For now, West is focusing on finishing the trail to Deadman’s Curve. After that, she’ll try to convince Kodiak to finish the road to the Coast Guard base.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” she said.