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State proceeding with plans to demolish properties in advance of proposed Knik Arm bridge

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In its first major step since taking over the Knik Arm bridge crossing project, the state transportation department has ordered the demolition of two home properties, over the objection of community leaders.

The state purchased the two homes along with a motel to make way for the proposed span. The department plans to start taking contract bids for demolition and removal. The goal is to have the properties removed by mid-November.

Residents of Anchorage's Government Hill neighborhood oppose the demolition of the homes, but not the old motel, which the community council has deemed a potential nuisance.

Community Council President Stephanie Kesler said the homes should be used as rental properties until the project receives the federal funding it would need to go forward. She called the demolition plans premature given the project — oversight for which was restructured during the last legislative session — requires federal loans as a key part of its financing.

"Given the current rental shortage, it seems these would be two wonderful homes," Kesler said.

But transportation department spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy told the Anchorage Daily News (http://bit.ly/1qTT8Dz ) that's not an option. She said both properties require extensive work, and if they are razed, the state won't have to pay a property manager to secure and weatherize the properties any more.

She said the state also provided relocation benefits to the prior occupants, in line with federal law.

The department took over control of the bridge project from the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority on July 1. The three properties had been purchased over the last several years as right-of-way acquisitions for the project, which would provide an alternative route between Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The state currently does not have a plan to remove a nearby duplex housing a piano store, McCarthy said. The store owner is renting that property from the state, she said.

Under the bill passed last session, the federal loan is to cover at least 30 percent of the project cost for construction. The state first submitted a letter of interest in the loan in 2007. The department plans to re-apply sometime this year, McCarthy said.


Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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