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Two Fairbanks road projects end as work begins on big intersection

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
DOT plans to close a portion of the Steese Expressway this week in preparation for the reconstruction of the intersection of Airport Way and the Richardson and Steese Highways. Motorists may still get to Airport Way while the project is under way, and through traffic will be detoured onto the Mitchell Expressway, Peger Road and the Johansen Expressway to get back onto the Steese.

Part of Steese Expressway to be closed during Airport Way-Richardson/Steese highway intersection project

Motorists will get a break this week when bridges on the Mitchell Expressway and Cushman Street reopen. But next week, the state Department of Transportation will begin work on this summer’s biggest Fairbanks-area road project -- the reconstruction of a major intersection on the city’s east side.

Department of Transportation officials expect to complete work by Friday on repairs to the Mitchell Expressway bridge on the city’s east side -- and another project downtown.

“The Cushman Street bridge -- so, the downtown Cushman bridge -- is also wrapping up,” says Danielle Tessen, a DOT spokesperson.

Tessen says work will continue on and around Third Street while the department begins to ramp up another project nearby -- the reconstruction of the big intersection of Gaffney Road and Airport Way and the Richardson Highway and Steese Expressway. It’s called the GARS Project, which stands for Gaffney, Airport Way, Richardson and Steese, and it’ll require closures and detours.

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
The GARS intersection reconstruction project is intended to increase traffic flow while decreasing the chances of wrecks.

“We’re going to be closing the Steese Expressway from College Road all the way to the intersection of Airport Way and Steese,” she said in an interview Tuesday. She says DOT will close that stretch of the Steese for at least a month.

“Keep an eye out,” she added. “There’s going to be a huge traffic shift happening in Fairbanks this week.”

Tessen says motorists coming in from North Pole can get around the project by exiting the Richardson ramp onto the Mitchell. DOT’s detour around the project will route traffic from the Mitchell onto Peger Road, then the Johansen Expressway and back onto the Steese. Motorists also will be able to get to Airport Way, where they can then turn west or east, to access Fort Wainwright’s main gate.

Tessen says the department has been trying to get the word out about the project by using among other things portable electronic message boards placed around that stretch of the Steese.

“So we have message boards that are out already,” she said. “They were out before the weekend, just saying ‘This closure is happening …’ ”

DOT officials say they want to rebuild that intersection to improve safety, because of the number of wrecks that occur there. And also, because of the volume of traffic that flows through it -- an average of about 35-thousand vehicles per day. That makes it the second-busiest intersection in town, after the one at University Avenue and the Johansen Expressway and Geist Road.