Connecting Alaska to the World And the World to Alaska
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Road and bridge construction planned this summer

When the GARS project is completed next summer, it will include several on- and off-ramps intended to minimize the chances of wrecks. And the intersection will have new bicycle and pedestrian paths.
When the GARS project is complete, it will include several on- and off-ramps intended to minimize the chances of wrecks. And the intersection will have new bicycle and pedestrian paths.

A summer of road construction is planned by the state’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, but officials say Interior drivers won’t be as inconvenienced as last year. Projects are listed here:

Kemp also talked about constructing passing lanes on the Alaska and Richardson Highways planned for this summer and in the next two.

DOT set records for road and runway projects across the state last year with 61 totaling $244 million. There will be fewer projects this summer, according to Joe Kemp, the acting director for DOT’s Northern region, but they will be bigger and cost more.

“ Bigger projects, more money, $310 million’s probably low with, with the, uh, amount of inflation that's been going on,” Kemp said.

He says with inflation, it might be more like 340 million.

Kemp made his remarks at the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce meeting this week.

John Perreault, Public Information Officer says Fairbanks drivers will notice less traffic impact than last year for the two projects in town.

“Of course, the Aurora Bridge is most localized for the folks in that neighborhood and through there, but that'll be done by the end of the construction season, and it'll be a great new bridge there next year,” Perreault said.

Aurora Drive is already closed. DOT has created alternative routes for emergency vehicles and school buses. The other project is the big intersection outside the Fort Wainwright main gate, where Gaffney Road, Airport Way, and the Richardson and Steese Highways all come together. It’s known by an acronym from their initials.

“GARS, of course, is still undergoing construction, so look for delays around that intersection, but it should be largely open to traffic in its new configuration by the end of this construction season. A big improvement there,” Perreault said.

Here is a DOT-PF video on the new left turns at GARS:


Kemp says several big projects are also planned for 2024, including 40 miles on the Alaska Highway near Tok and in the west 6 miles of curves getting straightened on the Parks Highway between Fairbanks and Nenana. That project is in the design stage now.

“ ’Cause there's so much going on there. There's millions and millions of yards of excavation and fill on that project. We're gonna go through and, and take out parts of those mountains as you go around,” Kemp said.

Kemp said some of DOT’s work this year and into the future will benefit from the federal Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA).

The governor announced February 15 that money from the IIJA will fast-track the replacement of five bridges on the Kinross ore-trucking route, on the Alaska, Richardson and Steese Highways over the Robertson, Johnson and Gerstle Rivers, the Chena Flood Control Project near North Pole, and the Steese Highway at Chena Hot Springs Road Undercrossing.

They are all on the 240-mile industrial trucking route from the Manh Choh mine near Tetlin, to the Fort Knox mill north of Fairbanks.

Here are links to the project websites:
Alaska Highway at Robertson River, Alaska Highway at Johnson River, Alaska Highway at Gerstle River, Richardson Highway MP 346 (Northbound) at Chena Flood Control, Steese Highway at Chena Hot Springs Road Undercrossing

“We’re identifying a lot of bridges around the state that need to be replaced, and there are a lot of 'em. I mean, we need a lot of bridges to, to keep up with industry's demand, uh, demand, but ask of, of being able to carry heavier loads.

2002 Aerial view of Robertson River bridge
Mark Yashinsky
2002 Aerial view of Robertson River bridge

DOT is currently holding an online open house for the bridges. Comment on the design and construction is open to April 21.

“ Gerstel and Robertson and Johnson are all World War II era bridges that, you know, they're pushing 80 years old now. It'll be interesting to see what we end up with for those, uh, for those legacy bridges.”

Some of the construction will stretch into 2026, two years after the Manh Choh mine near Tetlin, hopes to begin operations.

Vallarino, Mark T (DOT)

Perreault explained that currently, industrial traffic coming up the Richardson Highway is diverted away from a weaker bridge, that is not going to be improved.

 ” The bridge on the Steese highway between 10th and third over the Chena River is not designed to carry heavy loads. So currently that is the overweight, over height, Overlength route is to go Peger to the Johansen,” Perreault said.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.