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DOT reopens Steese Expy, closes far eastern stretch of Airport Way

The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities plans to partially reopen the Steese Expressway this week and temporarily close the easternmost stretch of Airport Way to allow contractors to work on underground utility lines throughout the area.

The Steese Expressway will partially reopen this week. But a portion of Airport Way will be closed after the July Fourth weekend through the end of the month.

The state Department of Transportation this week will reopen two lanes of the Steese Expressway, one northbound and one southbound, while work continues on that stretch of the Steese from Airport Way to College Road.

“It will be a construction zone, and so speed limits will be lower, and we’ll want people to be cautious of their surroundings,” says Danielle Tessen, a DOT spokesperson.

Tessen says that’s the good news. But with it comes some bad news, involving the easternmost portion of Airport Way, from Noble Street to the intersection of the Steese and Richardson highways.

“We’re actually going to be closing that down after the Fourth of July weekend for the whole month of July,” she said Wednesday.

Tessen says DOT scheduled the Steese reopening and Airport Way closure to enable drivers to get through that eastside intersection, albeit slowly. And to allow contractors to work on and around utility lines running beneath that portion of Airport Way and Gaffney Road. The work also will require weekend closures of a short stretch of Gaffney that runs from the Steese-Richardson intersection to Fort Wainwright’s main gate, beginning next week.

“It will close at 9 p.m. on Fridays and then reopen at 5:30 a.m. on Mondays,” Fort Wainwright spokesperson Eve Baker said. “And that’s July 8th through the end of the construction season.”

Baker says the Gaffney closure will help workers make more progress on the project.

“This gives the construction team and uninterrupted block of a little over 48 hours to get all the work done, without having to reopen the gate each morning and move their equipment out of the way,” she said Wednesday.

That’s why the post will close that stretch of Gaffney for several days late next month, Baker said, adding, “That will close from July 29th to August 8th, “so they can really get a good block of work done.”

To keep traffic flowing onto and off Fort Wainwright during closures and over weekends, she says the post will keep the Badger Gate open 24 hours a day whenever the main gate is closed. And it’ll open a temporary visitor center at the Badger gate. She says the post also will open the Richardson Gate to outbound traffic on weekdays and keep the Trainor Gate open longer.

“Trainor Gate will have 24/7 access from July 8th through August 8th. But that is for DoD ID card-holders only, and those who already have visitor passes.”

Tessen says DOT will detour motorists around the Airport Way construction zone and onto South Cushman, 10th Avenue and the Old Richardson. She says the work being done on and around Gaffney and Airport Way is part of a larger project to reconstruct the intersection of those streets and the Richardson and Steese highways.

“We’ve been doing all of that work outside in order to prepare for next season, when we’ll really tackle the intersection itself,” Tessen said.

D-O-T says the project will improve safety for the more than 34,000 vehicles that pass through the intersection of Gaffney, Airport Way and Richardson and Steese highway daily. It’s one of the busiest in Fairbanks, behind the one at University Avenue and Johansen Expressway.

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.