Infrastructure Update
Construction will begin this year on the Seward Highway MP 100 to MP 105 improvements project.

© R&M

Infrastructure Update
Construction will begin this year on the Seward Highway MP 100 to MP 105 improvements project.

© R&M

Summer road construction projects in 2019
By Tasha Anderson

ay traditionally signals the beginning of summer construction, including projects statewide to improve or construct roads, bridges, and the affiliated infrastructure. Road projects can take years to design and permit and are generally well-known to the public long before construction begins. This year construction in Alaska may deviate from that slightly because of the anticipation that as the frozen earth thaws, further damage from the November 30, 2018, earthquake may be become apparent. Also, some emergency repairs made at that time were temporary and will require additional work.

For now, the following is a selection of plans that are moving forward for road and bridge construction this summer and fall for projects that have taken the more well-worn project development path.

In Anchorage in the vicinity of East 40th Avenue and Loon Cove Circle, R&M Consultants developed the civil design to correct drainage inadequacies causing flooding. The construction estimate for the project is less than $1 million for 5 miles of roadway improvements and 1 mile of new pedestrian pathway, as well as improvements including storm drain pipe, manhole, open ditch, and landscaping elements. The Municipality of Anchorage Project Management & Engineering project is slated to begin construction this month and wrap up by August.

The intersection of Danby Street and Wembley Avenue in Fairbanks is being updated this year; the Danby-Wembley Roundabout design was developed by R&M. The engineering firm also prepared final bid documents for the project, which will include construction of a multi-lane roundabout to reduce angle crashes and accommodate oversize/overweight truck traffic. The design cost is $1.16 million and construction is coming in at an estimated $4.4 million. General contractor Exclusive Paving is scheduled to begin construction this spring and end construction in August.

The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) aims to improve safety and service for the first 12 miles of the Elliott Highway with the Elliott Highway MP 1 to MP 12 Rehabilitation project, which started construction in June 2018. Construction work will continue this summer and is slated for completion by the end of October. The cost of construction for this project is just under $25 million. According to DOT&PF, “notable traffic impacts” during construction this year include diversions at MP 11 and only one lane being open on the Chatanika River Bridge beginning this month. The project will repair poor performing foundation and pavement sections as well as drainage issues.

South of Girdwood, construction continues on the Seward Highway MP 75 to MP 90 Rehabilitation project. The project is intended to increase safety, extend the service life of the roadway, and address concerns with nine bridges, according to DOT&PF. The project is currently in Phase I: addressing poor pavement conditions, adding new passing lanes, reconstructing three bridges, and repairing one bridge from MP 75 to MP 77.7 and MP 81 to MP 90. Phase I is slated for completion in fall 2020, and it’s anticipated Phase II will begin in 2020. The estimated cost for the entire project is $200 million to $250 million including environmental analyses, design, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation, and construction.

Heading into Homer, Stantec provided engineering services for the $2.5 million Sterling Highway and Main Street Intersection Improvements project owned by DOT&PF. In cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, DOT&PF plans to signalize the Sterling Highway and Main Street intersection and add a north-bound right-turn lane from the Sterling Highway to Main Street. The project is scheduled for completion in November.

Work that began in late 2018 on the Kivalina
Work that began in late 2018 on the Kivalina evacuation and school site access road will continue this year.

© Stantec

Construction is planned this summer for Seward Highway Improvements from MP 100 to MP 105, from Indian to Bird Creek. The DOT&PF project has a construction cost estimate of $35 million; upgrades to the five miles of highway include rehabilitating the road, construction of one mile of new pedestrian pathway, replacement of the Indian Creek Bridge, and replacement of several large drainage structures to accommodate fish. R&M developed civil design for the highway reconstruction, which is up for bid this month with an anticipated construction start of this summer and end in 2021.

PND Engineers provided engineering services to DOT&PF for the First and Second Waterfall Creek Bridge Replacements project taking place north of Ketchikan. Construction will continue this summer on the project that began in December 2018 and is anticipated to conclude in September 2020. Orion Marine Contractors is the general contractor for the $8.3 million project. According to PND, “Following an initial cost analysis comparing a roller-compacted concrete option to a pre-stressed concrete bulb-tee girders single-span bridge, the latter was selected. Design involved vertical realignment and widening of the paved, two-lane rural highway at two ravine crossings, guardrail… erosion control along ditches and abutments, temporary detours and bridges, incorporation of bridges designed by DOT&PF, tie-ins with three driveways, relocation of overhead power and telecommunications, temporary traffic control, signing, and striping.”

Estimated to cost $51.7 million, the Stantec environmental and design team has been supporting DOT&PF for the Kivalina Evacuation and School Site Access Road, which will “increase community resilience by constructing a safe, reliable, all-season evacuation road between the community of Kivalina and Kisimigiuqtuq Hill that residents will be able to use in the event of a catastrophic storm or ocean surge,” according to Stantec. “As part of the innovative teaming process, DOT&PF, the Federal Highway Administration, the Northwest Arctic Borough, the Native Village of Kivalina, the City of Kivalina, NANA Regional Corporation, and other permitting and stakeholder agencies delivered the project into the construction phase in less than twenty-two months,” the company states. Work began on the project in late 2018 and will continue this year.

The Seward Highway MP 17 to MP 22.5 Rehabilitation project includes the rehabilitation and safety improvements of 5.5 miles of the highway between Moose Pass and Seward. The road will be widened from 28 to 37 feet, generally remaining in its existing location, and two new slow vehicle turnouts (one northbound and one southbound) will be added to improve safety. R&M was responsible for civil design for the project, which has an estimated construction budget of $65 million. The DOT&PF project will be up for bid in September 2019, with construction scheduled to start shortly thereafter and concluding in 2022.

In the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, R&M is the engineer of record for the Willow-Fishhook Road MP 34 Repairs project for DOT&PF. With an estimated construction budget of up to $1 million, this FEMA disaster grant-funded project will provide roadway repairs following heavy rains in late 2012 that damaged the Willow-Fishhook Road near Hatcher Pass. Repairs include replacing lost roadway embankment and stabilizing approximately 350 feet of Willow Creek stream bank. Construction is planned for August through October.

For those traveling Alaska’s roads this summer, take a quick look at DOT&PF’s “Know B4 U Go” website: The site provides up-to-date information on driving alerts, conditions, current and future events, and other important road information.