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Road Project to Temporarily Close Fort Wainwright Main Gate, Visitor Center

Fort Wainwright

Work will begin next month on improvements to the busiest entryway into Fort Wainwright. The project on the eastern stretch of Gaffney Road will require temporary closure of the Main Gate and Visitors Center. When it’s completed, the changes will help traffic flow more smoothly on to post. It’ll also enable vehicles to get through a much-bigger construction zone that the state will set next year at a nearby major intersection.

Commuters and other motorists may run into delays getting on and off Fort Wainwright this summer after post officials close the Main Gate and Visitors Center for a $2.5 million project road project that post officials say will improve traffic flow on Gaffney Road.

Post officials will open two other gates to help traffic flow into and off-post, including the Lazelle Gate, where a temporary visitor center will be set up.

“We anticipate the wait for the pass just to be about 2 to 3 minutes longer than normal,” says Fort Wainwright spokesperson Eve Baker. She says when work is completed this fall, there will be more lighting around the Visitor Center parking lot. And motorists will be able to get onto post more easily, because the project includes adding a designated lane for commercial vehicles like delivery trucks.

“They won’t have to move over, to get around the trucks,” she said, “and so that’ll provide safety for occupants of all the cars and for the workforce.”

Baker says the designated lane will enable security personnel at the gates to take more time to check out the commercial vehicles and their paperwork. She says until now, the gate guards have had to do that while the trucks were pulled over to the shoulder of that stretch of Gaffney Road.

“So they’ll be in their own dedicated lane, to give everyone more spaces,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Workers with Anchorage-based Silver Mountain Construction, the project contractor also will take care of more routine maintenance that Alaska’s roads require this time of the year.

“And we’re going to fill the potholes and improve the road surface in general,” she said, “and that will make everyone a lot happier.”

Baker says post officials will adjust the timing of traffic signals around the construction zone as needed to keep traffic moving. And they’ll do the same with the signals around other gates that motorists may use to avoid the construction, like the Trainor Gate. She says they’ll also temporarily reopen the nearby Lazelle Gate, to weekday inbound traffic; and the Richardson South Gate, off the Richardson Highway, for weekday outbound traffic. And she says the gates will be closed again when the project is completed.

“We simply don’t have the manpower to run six different gates 24/7,” she said.

Baker says the project is designed to enable motorists to get around a much larger construction zone that’ll be set up nearby next year. That’s when the state Department of Transportation will begin reconstructing the Airport Way intersection with the Steese and Richardson highways. DOT Engineer Carl Heim says that $15 million project will take two years to complete.

“So we’ll have a full construction season, y’know April through October, and then the following season April through October,” he said Wednesday.

Heim says the Transportation Department will host an April 27 open house in Fairbanks to talk more about next year's project.

Editor's note: This story has been revised to clarify that the Main Gate and Visitor Center will be closed throughout the summerlong road project. Fort Wainwright officials advise motorists to frequentlty  check the post's Facebook page for updates on the project.

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.