Federal highways drops Kake Access project
The Kake Access Road project is officially dead after the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) nixed the project’s environmental impact statement (EIS).
“A Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an…EIS was published in the Federal Register on January 22, 2013,” a notice on the federal register states. “The FHWA is issuing this notice to advise the public that FHWA and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) will no longer prepare an EIS for the Kake Access project.”
In 2004, a state transportation plan identified a need to improve access between Petersburg and Kake and in 2012 the legislature appropriated $40 million for the road project.
“A draft purpose and need statement was prepared in June 2013,” the notice states. “Scoping meetings were held on the purpose and need statement and preliminary alternatives. Following the public meeting, FHWA and ADOT&PF determined that the purpose and need statement should be better defined.”
Officials conducted several meetings and held a phone survey to better assess the perceived need.
“The needs assessment summarized prior work on the Kake Access Project, analyzed travel patterns, documented perceptions of project benefits and potential negative effects, and estimated potential annual average daily traffic counts for round trips between Kake and Petersburg,” the notice states. “Public meetings were held in Kake and Petersburg in March 2014 to present the results and to give residents an opportunity to provide input and ask questions about the proposed project.”
A revised purpose and needs statement was drafted in May 2015 and public meetings were again held in the two communities later that year.
ADOT pulled the plug on the project in February. In a letter from ADOT Commissioner Marc Luiken to Kake Mayor Christine Bitterman, he wrote the two main factors for closing out the project were lack of funding on top of an estimated $510,000 needed for maintaining the road and operating a ferry.
“DOT&PF has determined that it would not be prudent to proceed in light of the State’s current fiscal situation,” the letters states.
ADOT public information officer Jeremy Woodrow said the costs would burden ADOT.
“Right now the department is having its operating funds scaled back and so adding additional coasts, especially this much, would be a burden to the department that really couldn’t handle it in this financial picture,” Woodrow said.
Woodrow said the ADOT staff and officials couldn’t match up federal funding dollars used for transportation projects across Alaska with the Kake project.
Residents from Kake, Petersburg and the City of Kupreanof have criticized the project that would have linked Kake to Petersburg by way of road and ferry.
In September 2015, public comment documents from the Office of Federal Lands Highway (OFLH), some Kake residents supported the road for the employment opportunities the construction would offer Kake workers. Others criticized the project and said they’d rather have better ferry service.
The Petersburg Borough Assembly in January discussed a possible request to the legislature to reallocate the $40 million in funding to other projects within the region, but ultimately took no action out of fear the legislature would take the money altogether.
In his letter, Luiken wrote a new project scoping effort would support the “transmission of low cost hydroelectric power…” to Kake.