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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly held a special meeting on Monday to review planned access improvements at Ketchikan International Airport.
A number of individuals from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and engineers from private firms were present at the meeting and presented detailed mockups of what the improvements might entail.
The project, which is a permutation of the costlier idea of a bridge connecting the two islands, would improve access between Revillagigedo Island and Gravina Island by bolstering the ferry terminals and waiting areas, as well as expanding parking.
Kirk Miller from DOT spoke about some of the changes and ongoing progress that have been made on the project since the Assembly was last updated at its Oct. 16 meeting.
Some of the key aspects of the project discussed at Monday’s meeting were automated ticketing options, baggage mobility assistance and the roof of the passenger waiting building.
Miller stressed that there is still much to be done, and that much of the plans and details are still very up in the air and up for discussion.
Mark Pusich, a civil engineer with PDC Engineers, went over the tentative schedule of when construction is expected to be done, and the timetable of the four phases involved in the plan.
Pusich explained that the process is really all about bringing individual parts of the project into a cohesive and manageable timetable without sacrificing utility on behalf of those using the airport during construction.
“This project is fairly complex in nature, with respect to all the various elements that are involved with the project.” Pusich said. “… There’s kind of this vortex of elements of the project to make it all come together.”
Pusich said phase one is expected to last for about six months and will include improvements to North Tongass Highway, about 2,600 feet of it, and will include a widening of the road and two bus stops.
“A third lane is going to be designed and built that would be a turning lane in the middle,” Pusich said, explaining that it will help the flow of airport traffic.
A backup generator building and new ferry berth bulkhead would also be installed during this phase.
Assembly Member A.J. Pierce asked Pusich about parking with all of the construction during phase one. Pusich said that a temporary parking lot area would likely be used to mitigate the issue.
Also relating to parking, Assembly Member Susan Pickrell wondered why there was such a large increase in parking spaces as part of the design — an increase from 260 to 400.
Airport Manager Mike Carney responded that the scope of this project goes far into the future — into 2040 even.
“Our projection was for 20 years,” Carney said. “We’re building the airport (improvements) for a 20-year expansion.”
Pusich also showed the Assembly some examples of pedestrian detours that would be set up during this phase, as well as safety measures like screened fences around construction areas.
“You want that feeling of safeness,” Pusich said, describing how to keep airport customers happy and safe during construction.
Phase two is also expected to take six months and will involve building out the north parking lot on the Revilla side, constructing the foundation and underground utilities of the passenger waiting area and demolition of existing restrooms (porta potties will be used temporarily during this phase).
Pusich also said that an equipment storage unit would be built during this phase, and used a pointer to demonstrate how traffic flow would work during the second phase.
Pierce wondered if in order to save some money, parts from the existing restroom facilities could be salvaged or reused either on this project or others.
Paul Voelckers, president of MRV Architecture, told Pierce that it would be taken into consideration.
“Fair to say we could consider that,” Voelckers said. “… There may be the potential for some salvage and reuse.”
Phase three is expected to last three to four months and will include building out the south parking lot on the Revilla side, adding loading zone canopies and completing the passenger waiting area building.
Pusich said the final phase, or the “closing piece of the project,” is expected to last three months and involves completing the loading zone and ferry exit lanes and installing site lighting and security cameras.
Voelckers said that signage involved in the construction would be “super important,” and would include multiple signs directing traffic flows as well as a large “welcome to Ketchikan” sign.
During the meeting, Mark Morris, of Morris Engineering Group, discussed some of the electronics and technology involved with the project.
He pointed out that he was very excited about the prospect of automated ticketing. As planned, folks wishing to travel using the ferry would just purchase one round-trip ticket from a kiosk on the Revilla side.
Carney said that the automated ticketing system would “make the whole thing easier,” and explained that staff currently working in ticketing would be used to help enforce the automated ticketing and also assist with another part of the improvements — the baggage cart system.
The proposal includes having some form of mechanism to move bags for folks with multiple or large luggage.
Assembly Member Alan Bailey expressed some concern with keeping travelers bags dry. Pusich and the others said that they would keep that in mind as they move forward with the plan.
Two roof designs for the passenger waiting area were also presented. One involves a gabled roof with a classic downward sloping design. The other involves an inverted roof.
Voelckers noted that the inverted roof was the designers’ preferred option, although some Assembly members like Bailey and Assembly Member Judith McQuerry worried about the feasibility of the design, given the strong winds that are encountered in the area of Tongass Narrows.
Voelckers assured the Assembly that the design was safe, even noting that the inverted roof design has been used even more frequently as of late than gabled roofs.
He explained that in addition to allowing higher clearance for vehicles, it would also allow water to run off in a controlled manner without a drip edge.
There was no vote regarding aspects of the project at Monday’s meeting, and being a work session, it was largely held to update the Assembly and public on progress being made on the multi-year project.
If all goes to plan, Pusich expects construction on both the Revilla and Gravina sides to be completed by late fall of 2020.