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DOT project to improve pavement, make roadside mailboxes safer

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
DOT crews will fill-in roadway cracks from milepost 329 to 340 of the Richardson Highway, a process called crack banding, then coat the pavement with chip-seal, a substance that will help protect the asphalt and extend its useful life. The work will require lane closures and pilot cars to escort traffic through construction zones.

Traffic will be slowed later this week along a portion of the Richardson Highway through Salcha, where the state Department of Transportation will be working on a pavement-improvement project. It also will improve the safety of mailboxes along that stretch of the highway.

People who live along or pass through a stretch of the Richardson from the Salcha Store to Eielson Air Force Base should add a few minutes to their schedule starting Wednesday, because there will be some delays due to road work going in that area.

“We’ll have pilot car operations that will begin on Wednesday and they’re going to last probably through Sunday,” says Danielle Tessen, a DOT spokesperson.

Tessen says crews will be filling cracks in the pavement and then applying chip-seal to protect the roadway and improve traction. And she says DOT officials urge motorists to slow down while driving through the construction zone, both for the safety of the workers and to reduce the chances of spraying rocks into the windshield of oncoming vehicles.

While crews work on the Richardson Highway pavement, others will build new wooden frames to support roadside mailboxes along that stretch of the highway. The cantilever design of the frames are less likely to injure drivers of vehicles that collide into the mailboxes.

“In this particular area, people are driving pretty quickly,” she said, “and so to remind folks just to keep those speeds slow due to the loose gravel that will be in the area while they’re working on it.”

Tessen says the project will include some safety-related work that doesn’t involve the pavement.

“While we’re in the area, we’re also going to be replacing the mailboxes,” she said Sunday.

It’s not unusual to see battered mailboxes along that stretch of the highway. It’s not only a nuisance for the people who own them; it’s also a potential hazard to the motorists whose vehicles collide with the mailboxes. So Tessen says D-O-T will build stronger wooden frames to hold mailboxes that also will be less likely to injure people, “so that the mailboxes break away at the signpost, or they break away at the base.”

Tessen says DOT always tries to adding safety features like breakaway mailbox posts or improved street lighting whenever it’s designing road projects.

Tim Ellis has been working as a KUAC reporter/producer since 2010. He has more than 30 years experience in broadcast, print and online journalism.