Several highway projects planned or under way around the Interior
‘A little bit of delay’ likely around Denali National Park; bridge work scheduled for Elliott, Richardson highways
Drivers who hit the road this summer en route to their favorite getaway will encounter road projects in just about every direction they travel around the Interior.
This summer’s busy Interior road-work season includes projects on the Parks, Elliot, Richardson and Dalton highways. Some are carryovers from last year, like the one going on around McKinley Village, the community just south of the entrance to Denali National Park and Preserve, on the Parks Highway.
“There’s been a tremendous growth in tourism in that particular stretch,” says John Perreault, a spokesperson for the state Transportation Department’s Northern Region office in Fairbanks. “And we want to make sure that people are being kept safe and they have access to things as traffic increases in that area.”
That includes visitors who are driving around McKinley Village in vehicles, and those who are touring the area on two wheels or on foot, “so there’s more accommodations for pedestrians, bicyclists and other visitors who are in that area,” he said in an interview Friday.
Those accommodations include a new intersection, wayside and turn lanes around McKinley Village and other improvements about a mile south at the junction of the Old Parks Highway. Also, new pedestrian facilities under the Nenana River bridge and new connections to the Triple Lakes and Oxbow trails.
Perreault says all that work will at times slow traffic through the area.
“I drove through it myself,” he said. “There’s a little bit of delay there, but it’s going to result in some big improvements.”
The work is expected to wrap up at the end of this construction season. But other projects are just beginning -- like one on a stretch of the Elliott Highway that includes work on the Tolovana River bridge.
“We’ll be replacing the bridge deck, the railings and cleaning the substructure,” he said.
Elliott Highway's 'heaving and buckling' roadway
Workers also will be repairing a permafrost-ridden stretch of the highway between mileposts 51 to 63 that’s become a sort of a rollercoaster ride.
“There’s been quite a bit of heaving and buckling,” he said, adding that the work will begin next month and should wrap-up in October.
An even bigger bridge project will begin this summer on the Richardson Highway at Bear Creek, just south of Black Rapids.
“We are replacing the Bear Creek bridge,” Perreault said, “and we’ll be improving the approaches.”
The approaches at both ends of the bridge were washed-out last summer by flash-flooding. And it took a week for DOT to repair the bridge and six others damaged by heavy rainfall. Perreault says the Bear Creek project is designed in anticipation of bigger and more frequent floods.
“This is a permanent replacement that we hope will improve the resiliency to future big precipitation events,” he said.
Much of the bridge work will be done this construction season and completed next year.
Another series of projects to build more passing lanes on the Richardson between Delta Junction and North Pole will begin this summer and continue on through the next two construction seasons.
“There will be passing lanes in seven different locations,” he said. “Some will be northbound, some will be southbound, some will be paired northbound and southbound.”
Perrault says the projects will include stabilizing and erosion-proofing the banks of a Tanana River slough that threatens to destabilize the highway roadbed north of Quartz Lake. He says DOT expects to build one or possibly two of the passing lanes this summer.
DOT also will be reconstructing a stretch of the southernmost portion of the Dalton Highway, from milepost 18 to 37.
Perreault urges drivers to slow down and proceed carefully through construction zones. And he says before they head out on a road trip, Alaskans should check with DOT’s Traveler Information website, 511.alaska.gov, or call 511 to get updates on road projects and conditions.