WASILLA — A long-awaited road connection between the Parks Highway and a growing part of Mat-Su is finished — $19 million and a mile and a half later.
The just-completed extension of Trunk Road south of the Parks Highway reduces congestion, improves access to Machetanz Elementary School and gets traffic on a bridge to avoid a railroad crossing. A larger bridge over Wasilla Creek still needs to be built, officials say.
The Trunk Road extension is scheduled to open officially Friday — but it's mostly all paved and ready for traffic.
Trunk Road — once a sinuous road connecting farms — is now a broad two-lane artery in the southern part of the borough. It runs from Palmer-Fishhook Road in the north to Nelson Road in the south.
The new section will serve the closest subdivision to Anchorage in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, making it ideal for commuters.
And it brings prospective buyers to The Ranch, developer Rex Turner's commuter-friendly project about 30 minutes from Anchorage, and to the high-end portion of the development called The Bluffs at The Ranch.
The Trunk Road extension is in the southwestern hook formed by the Glenn and Parks highway interchange.
The first phase of The Bluffs involves 39 homes mostly in the $400,000 range, Turner said.
"We've been out of the market for a while waiting for this road to open," he said. "But this phase we're about to open is the 'creme de la creme' of the whole Ranch development."
The existing subdivision already includes about 250 homes, according to Turner. It also includes Machetanz Elementary, located on 15 acres donated by Turner.
The school was selected from two sites in contention. Only one — the one in Turner's development — needed new access from an extended Trunk Road.
The southern segment of Trunk Road wouldn't have been finished without Turner's contributions and extra steps taken by the borough to find road funds, borough spokesperson Patty Sullivan said.
Funding for the project came from a combination of public sources, including the sale of voter-approved borough road bonds in 2011 and 2013 and state matching funds from a grant.
The borough cobbled together extra money from other road projects after a $4.5 million state match fell through due to the fiscal crisis.
Turner built Nelson Road wider than required from its intersection with the new Trunk Road and paved 2 miles of it, valued at more than $2 million, according to Sullivan. Turner donated 12 to 14 acres of road right-of-way from the Parks to south of the railroad tracks.
Under an agreement with the borough, Turner provided fill material to the project. The fill came off a "future development" within The Ranch but one that's not slated for building and didn't need to be cleared, Turner said.
"It's probably a little better for development now since they took the material but we did not need to do it," he said.