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Steese / Johansen intersection costs increase

Steese Highway and Johansen Expressway Diverging Diamond Interchange.
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
Steese Highway and Johansen Expressway Diverging Diamond Interchange.

The large intersection of the Steese Highway with the Johansen Expressway is scheduled to begin remodeling in 2025, and may take three seasons. Road engineers are working on a new cost estimate for the construction.

There’s been a lot of commercial and residential changes and a lot more traffic coming into the interchange between the Steese Highway and the Johansen Expresswayin the last 20 years. What engineers with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities are now calling “the Steese/Jo” is a critical node for commercial traffic heading to the North Slope. Traffic there is some of the heaviest in the City of Fairbanks.

Jennifer Wright is the project engineer for the interchange upgrade. She gave an update this week to the Fairbanks Area Surface Transportation Planning policy board. Previous estimates of the cost of the overhaul were about 81 million dollars.

But DOT is researching how material and shipping costs have increased.

 “We've also been working on the cost estimating for the project with our independent cost estimator and our contractor. We did a big cost estimate on our 95 percent plans back in December.”

Wright said DOT solicited quotes to get as good of data on the cost as possible.

“We're revising a few, uh, uh, aspects there after we sat down with the designers and the contractor to try to save some costs, so I'm expecting to see a revised cost estimate in a few weeks.”

In the meantime,  DOT and the project contractors are working on what construction phases will occur when.

“And really determining what work is happening in each season, how we can maintain a lane in each direction on the Steese during construction.”

Wright said how traffic would be routed during construction and where any detours would be were frequently asked questions at a project open house in October. Another was the sound wall that would be built along the east side of the Steese Expressway south to Trainor Gate Road.

The intersection shape is called a “diverging diamond interchange,” or DDI.

“ So this is what makes the, the DDI really efficient is that we can get a lot of people through this movement..”

The design is considered safer and faster than a cloverleaf, and it doesn’t take up as much land…but the intersection will expand into a car dealership and a church building that are on that corner now.

“We’ve been working on appraisals for a lot of the right of way that we need. Once that's done, we can start putting offer packages out to the landowners that we need land from.”

The new design includes a skier’s tunnel north of the intersection that will connect trails on the east and west of the Steese Highway. 

The Department of Transportation has crafted an animated video showing how drivers would get through the intersection in each direction. It’s posted on the project’s website.

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.