Eklutna Bridge, Eagle River Road get state funds
Two crumbling stretches of local infrastructure were among the biggest winners when the 27th Legislature wrapped up its regular session earlier this month in Juneau by passing a $3.3 billion capital budget that includes millions for local infrastructure improvements.
“If you notice a theme, the projects are roads, roads and more roads,” said Rep. Bill Stoltze, co-chair of the House Finance committee.
Among the biggest local items in the budget are $29.8 million to rehabilitate Eagle River Road from Mile 5.3 to 12.6 and $14 million to replace the aging Eklutna River Bridge. Both roads have been the subject of numerous community meetings in recent months to address safety issues.
Stoltze said the Legislature wanted to take care of “big ticket” items in dire need of upgrades.
“This has been kind of meat and potatoes spending,” he said.
Other high-dollar items in the budget include $6.15 million for a new Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department station, $6 million to fix the Eagle River Road/Artillery Road interchange and $3 million to fix drainage issues at the Tablelands subdivision.
The Eagle River Road project was added in the Senate’s version of the bill, and Stoltze said Sen. Fred Dyson deserves a lot of credit for making sure the upgrades made it into the final version of the budget.
“He laid the ground work for that,” Stolte said.
Heading into the session, Stoltze said the entire Chugiak-Eagle River delegation — himself, Rep. Anna Fairclough, Rep. Dan Saddler, Sen. Cathy Giessel, Sen. Fred Dyson and Sen. Charlie Huggins — agreed that getting money for roads would be of upmost importance.
“That was where our community priority was highest,” he said.
He said the area’s lawmakers worked as a team to champion area projects.
“Our main party is Chugiak-Eagle River,” he said.
Fairclough, who also sits on House Finance, said she felt like this year’s budget didn’t include a lof ot unnecessary funding.
“We’re really trying to be fiscally prudent, but that does require some investment in infrastructure,” she said.
Other smaller local projects to receive funding include everything from $500,000 to fix the sidewalks near the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center to $34,000 to fund an all-inclusive playground being built by Focus Inc. and the Eagle River Rotary club.
Stoltze said he was particularly happy with one of the smallest allocations in the budget — $25,00 for new books at the Chugiak-Eagle River library.
“I think that $25,000 is going to have a lot bigger impact than a lot of other projects,” he said.
As of press time, the budget was still awaiting Gov. Sean Parnell’s signature for final approval. However, Stoltze said he believes Parnell is unlikely to use his veto pen to cross off many items.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727.