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Rich Highway re-opens

Bear Creek Sunday.jpg
Courtesy Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
The bridge at Bear Creek has new material in front and behind after the road washed out last week. DOT opened the Richardson Highway

The main artery between Fairbanks and Valdez opened yesterday, after being closed a week due to flooding. The Richardson Highway is open but still has lots of damage.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Danielle Tessen says the Richardson highway from mile post 218 and 234 had been closed since last Monday, when torrential rains washed out pavement or underlayment in several places of the highway.

“Our crews went in and, and they had to identify all the areas in which had damage to our infrastructure and they created a list.”

Tessen said the worst damage was under a 70-year old bridge at Milepost 233, south of Black Rapids.

“The Bear Creek Bridge area had the most impact and the road actually completely washed out at that bridge causing this, this closure to be a little bit longer because we had to rebuild the road to open it up.”

The closure was shorter than many folks expected, considering the damage. Tessen says day and night work to bring earth and material to the site to rebuild the road.

“We've got a couple different contractors and our maintenance and operation crews, all working collectively together and really around the clock just to get this response going through the rain against mother nature. And as of Sunday, the 17th, we were able to open the road, around noon, to single lane traffic.”

Tessen says a pilot car will guide traffic through the area where crews are working at Bear Creek and six other sites along the highway.

“We have crews that are gonna be actively working. Some of that work is going to be, cleaning out culverts, working in the ditches, but we also have a ton of work still happening at Bear Creek. The road is open, so we have pilot car operations, we have flaggers and you can anticipate to show up there and have to probably wait for a period of time. But the good news is you can get through, now,” she said.

The flooding also damaged a fiber-optic cable, limiting cellphone and internet service throughout the region.

That bridge, along with others, has been on a DOT replacement schedule, even before the washout. The project is currently in the design stage, and scheduled to start construction in 2025.