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Captains Bay Road Project Estimated At $59 Million

Berett Wilber

Transforming Captains Bay Road into a safer, smoother thoroughfare would cost about $59 million.

Engineers released the rough estimate last week after spending months studying the heavily trafficked gravel road that's home to some of Unalaska's largest businesses.

The proposed project would pave about 13,400 feet of road from Agnes Beach to Offshore Systems, Inc., extend utilities to the end, and straighten out several sections.

"I'm talking about widening [the road] to 30 feet," said Dave Lundin of HDL Engineering Consultants, listing features to the City Council.

"You've got a couple of 13-foot lanes, two-foot shoulders, curb and gutter, a pathway, [and] spacing from the tall cliffs so you've got rock fall safety," he said. "So it's not just paving. It's upgrading this road and doing some realignment."

If funded, the improvements would help Captains Bay Road withstand truck traffic from seafood and support sector businesses, as well as provide safer walking spaces for its many pedestrians.

The cost would be high, though, largely because of the resources needed to widen the road.

"There's not a lot of design cost in saying, 'Put a million yards of gravel here, and here's the shape of it.' But that million yards of gravel is really expensive," said Lundin.

Mayor Frank Kelty said he's "a little shocked" by the price tag, even though city officials knew it'd be steep. But he's still hoping Unalaska can find funding.

"I don't want to give up just because I see a high price tag now," said Kelty. "I think there are a couple of different ways — if there's some infrastructure project [funding] in D.C. that we could get in on, maybe use some of our bonding. I don't think the state's in the picture for a while."

The council gave engineers the go-ahead to finish the full design — and refine the cost estimate — while the city explores how to pay for it.

"I think we should go with this all the way, do a real good job, and not cut back on pedestrian walkways," said Councilor James Fitch. "Because if we put this road in and encourage more business, then we're going to encourage more people [in the area.]"

Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson also supported finishing the design, though he said the city may have to scale back the project's scope — and pave less road — depending on how much funding it can secure.

The bulk of the design should be done later this year. And if the project goes forward, the city would expect to work on permitting, right-of-way acquisition, and construction through 2022.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.
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