Transportation Department Bans Oversize Loads on Nenana Bridge Until It’s Repaired
The state Department of Transportation is prohibiting trucks pulling extra-heavy oversize loads from using the bridge over the Tanana River at Nenana for the next several days after engineers discovered a problem Monday with the structure.
DOT spokesperson Caitlin Frye says engineers were conducting a routine inspection of the 54-year-old bridge just north of Nenana when they discovered a problem with one of the structure’s bearings.
The bearings, she said, are “the piece of the bridge that connects the bridge to the foundation. And it’s meant to control movement of the bridge.”
The bearings are located just underneath the bridge deck and on top of the piers that support the structure. It allows limited movement of structural components to reduce stresses created by heavy loads. Frye said Monday that engineers think they can repair the problem in a few days.
“It is going to be a fairly simple fix,” she said, “and we do have crews that are scheduled to go out there either Wednesday or Thursday.
Alaska Trucking Association Executive Director Joe Michel says that’s what he’s been told.
“They’re going to work straight through the weekend, so they think that it’s going to be up and moving by Monday,” he said.
Michel said in an interview Monday afternoon that drivers of oversize trucks that need to deliver their loads sooner than that will have to use the Richardson Highway – the only other overland route that connects the Interior with the rest of the state.
“They’re either going to have to wait it out for the week or you bomb around to the Richardson,” he said in an interview Monday afternoon.
Frye said the bridge problem shows the limitations of Alaska’s highway system.
“Y’know, one of the difficulties that we have in Alaska is that we don’t have a lot of redundancy in our infrastructure,” she said. “So, there’s really just two routes that you can go.”
That may be what some of the big-rig drivers have do to deliver time-sensitive loads needed for the oil and gas or mining industries, which typically runs a lot of trucks during the summer. But Frye says all other motorists, including truck drivers who aren’t hauling an oversize load, shouldn’t have any problems using the span, which is formally known as the Alaska Native Veterans Honor Bridge.
But motorists may encounter some delays when crossing the bridge on Wednesday, when traffic will be routed into a single lane from 2 to 8 p.m. to allow workers to continue inspections and repairs.
Editor's note: Motorists can find real-time information about road conditions and construction projects by going online to 511.alaska.gov.