The new 10-foot wide pathway is being considered in a draft of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which encompasses road, ferry and trail improvements over the next four years. The document is required for federal transportation funding.
While the pathway is a new addition to the draft improvement plan, it also was judged by the department of transportation as a top project for trail and recreational access, local supporter Sandra West said.
Yet despite its top placement, West said funding presented for the construction of the pathway was only an illustrative number, not a firm funding commitment. The construction timetable stretches out to 2015.
“The request is that we should be fully funded for construction,” West said.
In an email to pathway supporters, she said the project should have a timeline with utility and construction funding by 2013.
The pathway project is part of a long-term plan to have a biking and walking trail that stretches from Kodiak city to the Coast Guard base, a stretch of road that West bikes regularly.
She said an increasing number of people bike from town to the airport or the Coast Guard base and there is a group of people who commute from Bell’s Flats into town.
“It is getting to be more popular and we are trying to get a safer route,” West said.
Safety is one of the reasons the pathway project was scored high by the Department of Transportation. An impaired driver killed a cyclist on the stretch of highway that would be covered by the path, according to application materials.
The project also scored highly because of the improvement it would make to quality of life, not only for island residents, but for tourists who come by cruise ship, for example, who would be able to make the walk up to the scenic vista. In addition, interpretive signage is planned for the pathway to point out World War II installations and Native subsistence traditions.
The pathway also will tie in to local events like the Crab Festival races.
Those lining up to support the project include local governments, state legislative leaders and the chamber of commerce. West said groups like the borough Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and Island Trails Network also will been strong backers of the pathway.
Former Kodiak city manager Linda Freed, who is a supporter of the pathway project, said public comments would show the community supports and wants funding for the project.
Transportation officials indicated over the weekend that less money from the federal government will mean a more difficult time bringing infrastructure projects across the state to completion.
Freed said local projects may have to compete with others statewide for funding and support for the pathway project may draw funds from another project in the state.
Conversely, if another community has a popular transportation project that garners a large number of comments, it could push the pathway project to a lower funding priority.
Often transportation projects get pushed back for one reason or another, Freed said.
“Hopefully, the comments will in fact generate enough interest at DOT that it won’t be pushed back, but hopefully be moved up,” Freed said.
Comments will give DOT a reason to consider moving up the schedule and committing the funds, she said.
Comments on the draft transportation improvement plan that includes the pathway will be taken through Sept. 18 and can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joining the walking and biking pathway on the draft list of infrastructure improvements over the next four years are two projects that have carried over from the previous years:
• The realignment and paving of less than a mile of the Chiniak highway near milepost 23.7, estimated to cost about $7 million. Construction estimated to begin in 2012.
• A longtime construction project for new ferry terminal for Kodiak through a federal earmark at a cost of more than $6.5 million. Construction estimated to begin in 2013.
Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via email at email@example.com.