The Alaska Department of Transportation’s summer road-construction season has begun, with major projects in Fairbanks and on both the Richardson and Parks highways. Crews are hustling to get as much work done as possible during the short construction season.
Breakup is done and greenup is well under way. And so is the summer road-construction season.
“It is the beginning of construction season for us,” says state Transportation department spokeswoman Meadow Bailey. “This is definitely when you see people and projects really kicking off. So, you’ll notice just about every road in Alaska you’ll see a construction project.”
Bailey says most of the work motorists will encounter in northern Alaska are maintenance projects. Like, the one that got under way Monday on a stretch of the Richardson Highway from Birch Lake to Delta Junction, beginning in an area just east of Tenderfoot Hill, where permafrost buckles have turned the roadway into a sort of roller-coaster.
“For the next 10 days or so, you’ll see our crews out there,” she said. “They will be working on resurfacing the road in areas where the pavement is starting to disintegrate.”
Bailey says that and other preventive-maintenance projects are intended to fix such immediate problems as potholes and frost heaves – and to make the road surface last longer.
“The goal there is really to extend the life of the surface, so that we don’t have to go in and do a costly reconstruction,” she said. “We’re just extending the life by doing this patching job.”
Bailey says the department will do only a few road-construction projects this summer in northern Alaska, like the work on Noble Street in Fairbanks. And on a stretch of the Parks Highway north of Denali Village, the tourist attraction just outside the park, where the department will resume work begun last year on a wall to block rockslides from reaching the roadway.
“Last year, when we went in and stabilized the slope and we removed any of the rocks that weren’t very stable,” she said. “And this year, we’ll repave that area.”
Bailey says the department has a few more road-maintenance and construction projects farther south on the Parks, around Wasilla, and on the Glenn and Seward highways around Anchorage and on the Kenai. On the Richardson Highway, there’ll be work under way around Banner Creek, near the Fairbanks North Star Borough boundary. Also around the junction of the Tok Cutoff and, at the other end, where it intersects with the Alaska Highway. And, near the junction of the Rich and Edgerton highways, about 80 miles north of Valdez.
Bailey says motorists should approach the work sites slowly and proceed carefully.
“Slow down, make sure that you’re not talking on your cellphones and that you’re focused on the road. Follow the signs, and pay attention to the workers and the equipment.”