Wrangell’s Public Works department works to repair an underground leak on St. Michaels Street, one of the roads proposed to be refurbished if state funding is approved. (Sage Smiley / KSTK)

Winter is tough on roads in Alaska, and Wrangell is no exception. Some streets are special sources of frustration for residents, who have to dodge ever-shifting cracks and potholes when driving or walking around town. 

Wrangell’s municipal leadership is hoping the state government will lay down millions of dollars in transportation funding this year so the community can replace some streets and sidewalks downtown and in other high-use areas. 

The Community Transportation Program grant is run through the state Department of Transportation and held every three years. Wrangell’s Borough Manager Jeff Good told the borough assembly at a January 10 meeting that like most state grants, it’s competitive. 

In order to apply for the grant, Good explained: “We need a resolution that commits funds for whatever our match would be and in this case, it’s a 9.03% match in order to do that.”

Wrangell’s borough assembly was on board, and committed upwards of $812,000 as a 9.03% match to the estimated $9 million roads project. 

It would resurface a few roads downtown, in addition to redoing sidewalks and storm drainage systems: Campbell Drive, which runs past the Nolan Center and towards City Dock; lower McKinnon Street, between Ace Hardware and the dentist’s office; and lower St. Michaels Street, locally known as City Market hill.

The assembly also approved an additional $38,000 match for the borough to apply to the transportation alternatives grant, which covers sidewalks and trails aimed at people moving around without cars. 

That non-motorized transport project – estimated to cost around $420,000 – would add a sidewalk on Second Avenue, which runs down toward the elementary school from the hill, next to the industrial park. 

“We currently don’t have a sidewalk there, and a lot of pedestrians use that route,” Good explained, adding: “Especially around the corner – it’s a kind of a blind curve, so having a sidewalk there would definitely be a benefit.”

Wrangell Mayor Patty Gilbert acknowledged that there are sidewalks in town that are also in need of repair – she’s been hearing from Wrangell residents about one in particular, she noted. 

“I know there’s been a lot of comments about Case Avenue’s sidewalk,” Gilbert said, “But our Public Works will still repair sidewalks as they have time.”

“And,” Good added, “We did look at Case Avenue sidewalk as a potential – the only problem we have is that these sidewalks have to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements. And the problem we have with Case Avenue is it’s not wide enough – there’s no room to meet those requirements. So we’d have to do some easements and things like that to be able to meet the [standard].” 

If awarded, both the roads project and the sidewalk project would be engineered and carried out by the Department of Transportation, not by Wrangell officials. If awarded funds, Wrangell’s primary commitment would be a [web: the 9.03%] match of about 9 percent of DOT’s estimated project cost – which could be different than the current estimate. 

Wrangell borough staff say they could know in May whether the community has been awarded any transportation funding. 

Get in touch with KSTK at news@kstk.org or (907) 874-2345.