Sitka road project awarded



A nine-mile gravel road up one side of Katlian Bay near Sitka will finally be under construction this summer. It’s one of the first big “open for business” road projects of the Dunleavy Administration, after four years of “no-build” state management.

A $31.7 million bid was tentatively awarded by the Department of Transportation this month to K&E Alaska, an Oregon-based excavation firm with an office in Sitka. The final bid award would come after a 10-day protest period is completed.

The road project on Baranof Island is described as a single-lane, unpaved road with bridge crossings, beginning at the northern end of Halibut Point Road, extending east along the south shoreline of Katlian Bay, crossing the Katlian River, and ending four miles east of the Katlian Bay estuary at the boundary between Shee Atika and U.S. Forest Service Lands.

The project opens up territory for subsistence and recreation, and also gets close to Shee Atika Native coporation lands for future development. It will end at a turnaround that meets up with an existing Forest Service trail. Ultimately, it could link to a road to Rodman Bay, allowing transportation vessels to avoid Peril Strait, which is only usable at high tide.

But for now, it’s a road to resources and recreation. The Katlain River, which the project would bridge, is rich in salmon, dolly Varden, steelhead, and trout, and Shee Atika land is rich in timber.

Alaska voters approved the funding in November 2012, as part of the $454-million transportation projects bonds ballot question, which contained authority to borrow for transit projects statewide. The original estimate was for around $16 million. The remainder of the money for the project is coming from a Fairbanks project that was federalized, leaving money available to shift to the Katlian Bay project.

Dozens of construction jobs will be associated with the project on Baranof Island, which was originally scheduled for completion in 2018, but which had been put on hold by the Walker Administration.


  1. A one lane road (aka walking path), in Sitka, that came in at almost twice engineers estimates, is being awarded? Must be somebodie importants baby. Well I guess it’s jobs. Hopefully there is some oversight on the Alaska hire requirements, I would hate to see K&E bring in their crew from Oregon and have them reap all the monetary benefits from this political favor.

    • A bit of history on this boondoggle project: 1) It was approved through a general obligation bond on the ballot, a measure that included greatly larger-cost must-pass transportation projects in Anchorage. It was an easy-rider, free pass for the Katlian road. 2) After that, during preliminary design the project and its originally stated “purpose and need” (as stated on the ballot) proved to be infeasible due to cost. That purpose and need was to access gravel in the area where the road would end, and it required a budget-busting multi-span bridge across the mouth of the river. (3) So, Alaska DOT moved the river crossing way up the river, and changed the purpose and need statement to be to access a trailhead for a trail had not had previously planned – the trail was invented to justify the project. (By the way, the gravel deposit can’t be accessed from there.)

      So this is an initial allocation of money that is just chasing a project, and now with a bunch of extra money heaped on just to make that a “go”. A waste of money at Alaska’s worst of times for that, just to satisfy Sen. Stedman and DOT’s momentum. The money is still in the bank. The state should terminate the contract, and after paying to terminate it should put the many millions that will be leftover into transportation infrastructure that is REALLY needed, elsewhere in the state.

  2. Crazy! Crazy! Ten day comment period? When does it begin and end? Where is the money for this lunatic idea come from? Is this where our school, ferry, pioneer home, health care, UNIVERSITY, etc etc proposed cut going? After the droves of people are leaving Alaska because of all the cuts just tell me who is going to walk, hike, four wheel on this road? If there is a recall going to get Dunleavy out of office, I am jumping on THAT bandwagon. How could things go so wrong so fast in our state, our community, our neighborhood? So very sad! I cannot tell you how many Sitka people are planning to leave because of this insane budget! I am not one of them, I am going to do everything I can to oppose this administration that it setting out to destroy the future that Alaskans have worked so hard to build!

    • A little pay back for the “Stand for Salmon” crap you liberals
      tried shoving down our throats.
      Drill baby Drill, Dig baby Dig.
      Right thru your “Road less Southeast” plan you had.
      Laying in a road is Sitka’s way
      to the future. ?

      • What future?

        This silly road only creates more expenses to keep a one lane, slide prone road open year round to a recreation area. It changed from a Road to Resources to a road to subsistence and recreation area.

    • Well let’s see, the funds were already awarded a couple years ago, and more money being added from another road project so nothing being spent from current coffers. Roads are infrastructure that open up development and create jobs. Our schools, , K12 and UA, have huge room for cuts, our healthcare is extravagantly out of control, and the ferry system fits within infrastructure but has room for improved efficiency. Hence you are arguing the proverbial apples and oranges. Our state has enjoyed one of the highest per capita in spending in the nation. There’s room for huge savings and if you are not part of the solution than you are part of the problem.

  3. Yeah!!! A road in Alaska!!! I can hardly wait to drive the new road and will enjoy every mile of it. Thank you, Gov. Dunleavy!! How about a few new roads up north and the one to Skagway would be awesome for all needs and wants into Juneau saving wear and tear on the Marine Highway Transportation system. Let’s keep working at creating better transportation for all.

  4. It is a little disingenuous to attribute this project to Gov. Dunleavy. Can you cite the decision of Gov. Walker to choose a “no build” alternative or an order to stall this project?

    The voters approved the bond package in 2012, and as of early 2015 the project was still short of the cash on hand to meet engineer’s estimate (~$2 million). The environmental process was occurring from 2015 onward with a final FONSI for the road being signed January 2018. The bidding was opened in September 2018 and closed December 2018. Yes the bids were opened and awarded during the Dunleavy Administration, but was Suzanne fails to mention, but another commentator does, is that the $31.7 million bid is 58.8% more than the engineer’s high estimate? Can we give Dunleavy credit for that too?

    I favor roads and want both Juneau Access and KABATA to happen in addition to more SE Alaska road segments but let try to be a little more genuine.

  5. In addition to the facts presented by CB, here are a few more.
    This road is yet another (pork barrel) project by senator Bert Stedman. In 2012 he pushed the project as needed because Sitka was running out of rock for construction. That simply wasn’t and isn’t true. While I don’t oppose the road, Shee Atika corporation has the most to gain from this particular road. So the question is, are we building this road for the primary benefit of a private corporation? I will take Governor Dunleavy’s word for it if he thinks this project is worth the expense. Stedman on the other hand, well that’s a different story.

    • Which private corporation are we building it for? While Shee Atika may own the land at Katlian Bay, Sealaska owns the subsurface rights.

      Shee Atika is a failing corporation so it is unlikely they will do anything meaningful with the land. They have been busy selling off their land base to pay their dentist CEO and his board of sycophants.

  6. The article clearly states a tentative bid of 31.7 mil was awarded, and the original estimate was about 16 mil. How is that not genuine?

    • Secon came in with a bid close to that low bid. It’s a tentative award, subject to protest process.-sd

    • Ok that is suspect ? Hmmm. I’m all for roads but why so much higher? The balance made up with the funds from Fairbanks? How did the cost go up so much in couple years?

        • Suzanne was referring to Sergius Narrows being difficult for larger boats to pass through due to strong tides. Although technically it may be be part of Peril Strait, locals would use the phrase Sergius to describe that section.

          Rodman Bay is the location of the proposed new ferry terminal and was selected to avoid the Sergius Narrows section.

    • Actually, this was voted on by Alaskans in 2012. It’s just taken this long to get done. But thanks for playing. -sd

      • Wow,I didn’t know that all the Alaskan voters even new where Sitka is let alone Katlian Bay and valley. Sounds like a waste of money for the benefit of a few? I think the money could be spent on a lot of more important issues regarding Sitka.

        • It was Senator Stedman who added this road project through in the Road to Resources ballot measure which included some other high profile projects that garnered the votes needed to pass.

          Suzanne mentions the possible extension of this road to Rodman Bay to a proposed new ferry terminal which would bypass Sergius.She left out the fact that Senator Stedman owns land in Rodman Bay.

          I’ve noticed that Senator Stedman shows particular passion for projects in which he has a personal interest. Whether it is the unwanted Mt. Edgecume Pool which appears to be at least partially motivated by his experience as a high school swimmer or his passionate defense of the Pioneer Home where both his mother and mother-in-law reside.

  7. Here in sunny Ketchikan we got a road also. I don’t know when it will get done because of State add-ons. The first contractor declared bankruptcy. Poor oversight by the six figure DOT guys. The contractors equipment looked like they bought it used from a gyppo logger outfit. K&E came in and took it over. They seem top notch. The State has been quiet on progress and the website for The Shelter Cove Project hasn’t been updated for this umpteen million dollar project.

  8. I spent many years hiking up and around Katlian River. Dad made friends with the logging folks and we used their roads and bridges. That was in the 60s. I saw the mess left behind from the logging (slash plus they removed their bridges) and experienced the mad bear having been shot at by loggers for ‘fun’. It’s a beautiful part of this world. I hope there is more protection put in place so that it is not destroyed by the thoughtless. Its a nice thought that I won’t have to wade the rivers next trip.

  9. I’m disappointed that it went to an Oregon contractor.
    I’d rather have seen it go an Alaskan owned company like Southeast Roadbuilders out of Haines, or Tonsgaard Construction out of Juneau.

    • Very good point AK Seiner. Still, it could be argued that the road might have been funded to benefit a private corporation. A minor correction to the article; Peril Strait isn’t dangerous at low tide. I believe that the reference should be placed on Sergious Narrows which is only safe for displacement hulled vessels at or near slack tide. As for the road contractor; my understanding is that there is a mandatory 80% Alaska hire stipulation in the contract documents so we can all rest assured that Alaskan’s will be put to work.
      Thank you Suzanne for hosting this website!

      • I will certainly cede the maritime expertise to you on this one. I have not been through there in 20 years but it’s truly amazing. -sd

  10. I’m happy that K&E got the job. I think they are an amazing company and do excellent work. Yeah it’s too bad an alaska based company didnt get the job. However, they did bid the lowest bid and also remembered to turn their bid in on time. I think that kind of speaks for itself. Although it’s an Oregon based company, I’m sure it will open up a few jobs within the community for the few people who actually put forth the effort in apply for the jobs that do open. Maybe this is just a road to nowhere, but if this money didnt get wasted here I’m sure the money would have gotten spent on something else that people would find reasons to be upset about just as well… Me personally, I’m happy about this road being punched through and plan on using the road just as much as anyone else who’s looking forward to it. And probably just a little more than those who are not happy about it.

    Congratulations to K&E for getting the bid!

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