The Ketchikan City Council has again deferred action on a request to allow night work next summer on Ketchikan’s downtown streets, pending further discussions with the Alaska Department of Transportation.
Council members expressed concern Thursday about how the noise of road construction on Front, Mill and Stedman streets would affect hotel businesses downtown. DOT’s plan calls for sidewalk work starting this fall, and road work starting next spring.
Representatives of two local hotels spoke during public comment, and said their businesses would be hurt if road construction were allowed during the requested time frame of 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Kay Andrew of the Gilmore Hotel on Front Street said she has some suggestions for DOT that might make it easier for local businesses.
“We’ve been trying to work with the state,” she said. “We’ve made several phone calls to Christopher Goins, the managing engineer for the State of Alaska, and received no call backs. Is this what we’re going to be dealing with? A state DOT that won’t even answer their phone?”
Andrew said her business needs a reliable time frame for the construction’s start and end, and a guarantee that customers will be able to access the hotel and adjoining restaurant throughout the process.
Tim Lewis of Cape Fox Lodge said the state’s desire to work at night during the busy tourism season seems to consider cruise passengers over independent tourists.
“They are people that come here, they go on fishing tours. They’re spending $3,000-$4,000 on a fishing tour, they come in for a night, they leave, they go out to a village,” he said. “Those people, to us, spend more money in this community than a cruise ship passenger.”
Lewis said if the road construction goes forward as planned, Cape Fox would have to warn potential guests before they book a room that they might not be able to sleep at night.
During Council discussion, Dick Coose suggested having a discussion with DOT’s Chris Goins about the concerns, and coming up with a way to mitigate them. Other Council members agreed.
City Manager Karl Amylon warned the Council that the project could stretch into a two-year ordeal if a decision isn’t reached soon.
“And just to play devil’s advocate, if you were downtown today, imagine trying to accommodate that traffic, and putting things down to one lane,” he said. “That’s going to be a mess, and you’re going to hear from a lot of tour operators and other people. It’s not ideal by any standards, but the work does need to be done.”
The Council directed Amylon to contact DOT and request a meeting. If a state representative can make it before the next regular Council meeting on July 6th, the Council agreed to meet in special session.
Also Thursday, the Council briefly discussed a state bill that will allow transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Alaska. The Council has opposed the legislation, which Gov. Bill Walker signed into law on Thursday.
Amylon told the Council that a ballot proposition to limit those businesses could be prepared for the October local election. The issue will come back to the Council for further consideration.