Federal government, borough, WCA collaborate on Weber

The final touches on the Weber Street project concluded this week.

For the Wrangell Cooperative Association (WCA), the repaving and sidewalk work on the formerly two-way street in the middle of a residential neighborhood is simply one more project completed.

The project was three years in the making. Bidding for construction was estimated at about $490,000, though final figures for the construction aren't yet available, officials said, and they are waiting for the project to be completed before releasing the total amount.

Among the often contentious relationships between local governments, residents and the federal government (which owns about 60 percent of Alaska's 222 million acres of land, according to the Department of Natural Resources), officials – like WCA transportation manager Bill Willard – have portrayed the Weber project as a bright spot. Western Federal Lands, part of the US Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, contributed heavily to the project. The WCA contributed funds for construction. Borough officials allowed the association to manage the project.

"WCA funded the project. Of course, the borough owns the property," Willard said. "Federal Highways and Western Federal Lands did the design and the project management and the contracting,"

"It's been a very good, positive relationship for the community overall to have

something like this take place," he added.

The transition from an undesignated, typically

two-directional street into a one-way, downhill from Reid to Church streets, was made by borough officials after it became apparent during the design phase that with the

pavement and culvert design, only 12 feet of passable

roadway would remain, and that the unpaved road had been artificially extended on to

private property. A majority of residents along Weber had expressed a desire for the street to be one-way downhill, officials said.

"You notice up on upper Weber, they had 20 feet of right-of-way, and they

were able to put a sidewalk in (in addition to keeping a

two-way street)," Willard said.

WCA officials won't have much time to appreciate

their success with the Weber project. Construction on

culvert replacement along a section of the Nemo Loop road was already underway Tuesday. The Nemo Loop project

is a partnership of WCA with the US Forest Service,

which owns the road, Willard said.

Willard urged motorists to exercise caution around the construction signs on the Nemo Loop, obey traffic signs and look out for workers.


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