Sunday, August 20, 2017

Palmer, Alaska: Taking on infrastructure improvements - Airport, highway, sewer top the list

PALMER — Those traversing the Palmer Wasilla Highway (PWH) near the recently opened Fred Meyer are aware of the ongoing road construction. The work is related to just one of several major infrastructure improvement projects ongoing in the City of Palmer.

Palmer City Manager Nathan Wallace said work also continues on the new wastewater treatment plant and airport improvements including resurfacing the 6,000-foot 16-34. At the last Palmer city council meeting, Wallace said work on the approximate $12 million facility is going well. He said the new structure’s floor is in place as are several of the new building’s walls.

“Our goal is to get the concrete done by winter,” Wallace said. “Work can continue (to complete the structure).”

He said if the project remains on course, the new facility should be ready to go by late next spring or early summer. The new facility will bring it back into compliance with federal guidelines relating mainly to excessive ammonia levels, some which flow in the Matanuska River and threaten aquatic stability.

“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) wants water flowing by summer,” said Wallace.

In a related matter, the manager said the city’s main water tower will receive a facelift. Wallace said the structure is in the final prepping stages for a new coat of paint.

“We’re working on a pattern. The tower by Mat-Su College has a tree-theme,” Wallace said. “We’re looking at something like that.”

Them more than $8 million improvement project at Palmer Airport is almost complete, Wallace said. A Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) grant covered 93 percent of the costs while the state covered a major portion of the remainder leaving the city to chip in $90,000 Wallace said.

Wallace said the facility’s longest runway surface was taken down to concrete in late June. The resurfacing is scheduled to be completed by late October. The manager said that was the major part of the project but only part of the overall improvements in the works. Also included is an apron expansion to allow larger aircraft access and a new heliport at the south end of the complex.

“We’re also doing some safety upgrades,” Wallace said. “Things like tree and berm removal. (Runway) 16-34 will be done by the end of the week.”

The PWH lane expansion is probably the most evident of all. Called the Palmer Wasilla Eastern Terminus project, it is under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Wallace said when complete, the highway will be widened near Roland Memorial Drive with a left-hand turn lane added, along with a new stop signal and turn lane at Felton.

Work began in earnest several weeks ago and crews continue grubbing and clearing along the right-of-way. Wallace said the project also includes some water and sewer line relocation and upgrades. He said the first layer of new road surfaces will be in place before winter’s onset with the final paving scheduled for after breakup next spring.

“The project will be substantially complete by late October,” Wallace said.

A smaller project, but Wallace said is important to many residents, is completion of another section of the “Rail Trail” or Shane Woods Trail. The manager said a $5,000 grant from the National Park Service and Marlboro Foundation allowed the city to knock down a trail connection link behind Palmer Depot. The overall goal is to run the trail from Arctic Avenue to the depot.

“We’re chipping away at it,” said Wallace. “One grant was given to each state and we got it.”

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