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Organizers Announce Plans for Iditarod Starting-line Venue, Airport Way West Closure

APRN file photo

Updated: The Iditarod Trail Committee on Friday announcedthis year's race will restart beginning at 11 a.m. Monday at the starting line on Hoselton Road, near Pike’s Waterfront Lodge.

Organizers of this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and their local partners will wait until Friday to announce the starting point of this year’s course. Plan A is to start at Pike’s Landing on the Chena River at 11 a.m. Monday. If the ice isn’t safe enough, Plan B is to start it nearby, on Hoselton Road. But one thing is certain: a stretch of Airport Way will be closed for several hours Monday.

The National Weather Service predicts overnight lows around 30 below tonight and Thursday night. Explore Fairbanks President and CEO Deb Hickok says she and other local Iditarod-start organizers hope that’s cold enough to freeze the Chena River good and hard so the race can start at Pike’s Landing on the west side of town.

“So ideally,” Hickok said, “Plan A is that the mushers and the spectators will be able to stage on the river.”

That’s how it was done back in 2003, when like this year, poor trail conditions convinced Iditarod organizers to move the starting point of the race northward to Fairbanks.

“Then, Plan B is that we go onto Hoselton (Road) and the mushers stage there and the spectators will be along the road,” she said, “and that’s basically how we did it in 2013.”

In a talk Tuesday with the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, Hickok said organizersand experts with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, State Troopers and state Department of Transportation will make a call on the starting line at noon Friday.

Credit UAF journalism file photo
Jeff King's team tears out of the chute during the 2003 Iditarod, the first to begin in Fairbanks after the ceremonial start in Anchorage.

But regardless, she says either plan will require closure of the westernmost stretch of Airport Way, from the intersection of Sportsman Way out to Fairbanks International, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Borough spokeswoman Lanien Livingston says only a few vehicles, such as taxis, will be allowed through the traffic-control checkpoints.

“The only traffic that’s going to be able to get through on Airport Way will be borough buses – our regular borough MACS transit service, school district yellow school buses, our Van Tran service and the motor coaches that are carrying our spectators,” Livingston said.

She says airport exits off the Parks Highway will be closed and motorists will be directed to the airport’s east entrance, at the intersection of University Avenue and the Mitchell Expressway. From there, they’ll “take the east ramp. And they’re going to drive all around the airfield.”

Livingston says folks who want to get down to the starting line should just avoid the whole hassle and catch one of the shuttle buses that’ll be running back and forth throughout midday from the Carlson Center. Hickok says organizers are encouraging fans to check out the mushers at other vantage points along the race course.

“One that’s really good is the Chena Wayside, down on Chena Pump,” she said. “So you get a really nice view of the Tanana and you really get a great view of the mushers from there. As a matter of fact, I think that’s where I’m going to be.” 

Hickok says Explore Fairbanks and other local organizers will announce the final decision on the startling line on their websites and through local media just after noon Friday.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.