In their Tuesday, March 9 meeting, the Bethel City Council will introduce a resolution put forth by city management that would pit the city against the State of Alaska concerning a transportation plan.
Both governments want to ease the strain on local commuters by connecting BIA Road to Ptarmigan Street, but they disagree on the route. One path would cost more, but leave an allotment property in place; the other is favored by the Alaska Department of Transportation.
The state would prefer a shorter and more cost-effective route that would use a former private roadway, often referred to as Polk Road. The owners of the land, the Polk family, have already declined to sell their Native allotment property to the state at the offered rate, which they deem too low. The state countered with the threat of eminent domain, an act that would legally strip the Polks of their land, despite their wishes, and would reimburse them at the rate which the Polks have declined.
The City of Bethel has said that it prefers an alternate route that would connect the roads by going around H-Marker lake. The city’s route would cost $5.73 million more and cut through wetlands, but it would avoid both eminent domain and introducing fast-moving traffic into a residential area. The city said that directing more traffic through the existing community would exacerbate the dust problem and make the area unsafe for residents and pedestrians alike.
Officials for the City of Bethel said that the DOT didn’t consult with them, and rewrote the originally agreed-upon plan without their consent or knowledge. The resolution says that the way the state acted is “not only against standards and policy, but presents complications in the continuance of government partnerships.”
The measure, if passed, would resolve to find a plan amenable to both parties, while avoiding eminent domain and supporting Bethel’s growth through thoughtful city planning.
Also in the March 8 meeting, Bethel City Council will introduce a potential new law. If passed, it would outlaw defacement of city property in Bethel, and vandals could be fined $1,000. The law is expected to be voted on during the following city council meeting.