Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway is still riddled with potholes, and it’s unclear who is going to fix it. According to City Attorney Patty Burley, Bethel still hasn’t reached an agreement with the Department of Transportation on the issue.
The Department of Transportation has proposed that Bethel assume maintenance of the road for the next year until federal funds arrive to rebuild it in 2019. The state claims that its budget is limited, and it cannot afford to repeatedly patch Bethel’s potholes.
Bethel City Manager Pete Williams says that the city would have to assume the cost of grading the highway. "They’ve stated that it’d take $300,000 or $400,000 to put a maintenance crew out here," he said. While the city's cost may vary, he said, "if we’re gonna take it on, that’s probably what it’ll cost us too."
What’s the Department of Transportation offering Bethel in exchange for assuming those costs? "Technically nothing," said Williams. The Department of Transportation has offered to provide Bethel with free recycled asphalt, also known as RAP, to use as grading materials. But at last week's city council meeting, Department of Transportation Maintenance and Operations Chief Bob Anderson said that his agency isn’t allowed to sell that material. According to federal regulations, it has no monetary value.
Pete Williams and City Attorney Patty Burley say that they are working to negotiate a more equitable deal with the state, and Williams said that he hopes to present a revised agreement to City Council towards the end of the month. In an email exchange on Thursday, Department of Transportation spokesperson Shannon McCarthy said that the Recycled Asphalt Product is a tried and true grading material; the fact that it’s free is just a bonus. The Department has used it on road projects on public roads throughout the state.
The Department of Transportation is still responsible for fixing Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway until they reach an agreement with the city, but City Attorney Burley says that the agency simply hasn’t prioritized it. They say that their resources are stretched thin, and that they’ve chosen to focus them in the area near the Bethel airport instead.