An Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities announcement of a one-year delay in planned road improvements to Tongass Avenue in Ketchikan’s West End is a planned item of discussion on the Ketchikan City Council’s Thursday meeting agenda.

Two public hearings on planned water and electric rate raises also are planned to be held at the start of Thursday's meeting, with a vote on the second and final reading of the ordinances set for later in the meeting.

 A motion to direct City of Ketchikan Manager Karl Amylon to inform the ADOT&PF of the City of Ketchikan’s strong opposition to the postponement of the road construction project from 2021 to 2022 will be on the table for council approval.

The proposed project includes resurfacing and other improvements to Tongass Avenue between the Hoadley Creek bridge, near Carlanna Lake Road and the Tongass Avenue viaduct, near Elliot Street. Elliot Street is a stairway street leading up to Water Street from the uphill side of Tongass Avenue, across from the water side area between the Westflight Building and the former ProMech Air terminal.

Acting Port and Harbors Director and Public Works Director Mark Hilson wrote in a memo attached to the meeting agenda that the state department has been working on the design phase of the Tongass Avenue Improvements Project since 2018. At the regular City Council meeting of Jan. 2, 2020, an ADOT&PF representative outlined the design rationale for the project and told council members that construction was planned to start in 2021.

The newly announced timeline is to start construction in 2022.

Hilson wrote that the ADOT&PF explanation offered was that “they do not believe the necessary right-of-way will be able to be acquired in time in order to bid and complete the project prior to the 2022 cruise ship season.”

Two alternative approaches were outlined by Hilson in his memo.

The first suggests building as much of the project as possible in 2021, then limiting all future construction activities to take place outside of the cruise ship season. That approach would allow construction to take place during the summer “while not compounding the impact of the pandemic on the community,” Hilson wrote. He added that this option could necessitate dividing the work into two parts and awarding separate contracts.

The second alternative approach he outlined was to apply a “thin lift overlay” in the worst of the paved areas, similar to what was done on the worst portions of Tongass Avenue in 2017.

That approach, Hilson wrote, “would buy time” so that the project could be started at the end of the 2022 cruise ship season. Paving and concrete work that cannot be done in the 2022-23 winter could be completed in April and May of 2023, “avoiding the heart” of the 2023 cruise ship season, he added.

 In a memo written by Amylon, also attached to the council's agenda, he described the negative effects the construction would have if undertaken during the 2022 cruise season.

 “After what will likely be a two-year absence of cruise ships visiting Ketchikan, a major disruption of Tongass Highway will result in negative impacts to Ketchikan in its first year of economic recovery following the pandemic,” Amylon wrote.

He added, that an additional negative outcome would be that traffic would be disrupted between downtown and the new Ward Cove cruise ship facility. The community’s first opportunity to bus cruise ship passengers from that facility to downtown will likely occur in the 2022 cruise season, and road construction during that time could create daunting problems.

Hilson wrote that traffic in and out of Berth 4 also likely would be disrupted with road construction during the cruise season, as would traffic flow to businesses along the corridor.

Other agenda items the council will consider approving at Thursday’s meeting address planned utility rate increases.

The electric utility ordinance would increase rates by 1.5%, effective June 1. The water utility ordinance would increase rates by 5%, effective April 1.

Attached to each of the agenda items for those rate raises is a 10-year history of adjustments to city’s electric, water and wastewater rates.

Also set in the Thursday City Council meeting agenda:

● A presentation by Vigor Alaska regarding the Ketchikan Shipyard .

● A motion to approve a joint resolution with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and the City of Saxman urging the federal government to issue a temporary waiver to the Passenger Vessel Services Act and asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue technical guidance to allow cruise lines to resume operations in Alaska in 2021.

● Motions to approve 12 grants under the Community Grant Program and two grants under the Humanitarian Services Grant Program.

● An executive session to discuss the status of negotiations between the city and PeaceHealth for a new Ketchikan Medical Center lease and operating agreement.

Thursday’s City Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. and conducted via WebEx videoconference due to the classification by the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center of the of COVID-19 community transmission risk as “high.”

Thursday’s meeting can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of Ketchikan’s Facebook page or YouTube channel as well as on the City of Ketchikan website at http://www.ktn-ak.us/current-agendas-and-minutes.

 Individuals who would like to provide public comment telephonically during the meeting should contact the Ketchikan city clerk’s office by phone at 228-5658 by 4 p.m. Thursday. There is a three-minute limit on telephonic comments.

Individuals interested in providing written comments can do so via email, sent to clerk@city.ketchikan.ak.us by 4 p.m. Thursday. Written comments will not be read at the meeting but will be “put on the table” for the City Council members.