Chugiak, Eagle River schools closed Friday; new detour announced
All Chugiak and Eagle River schools will be closed Friday.
The Anchorage School District made the decision because of significant traffic delays on the Glenn on Thursday caused by the damaged bridge.
All other Anchorage-area schools will be open on Friday on a normal schedule.
ASD says any students who live in Chugiak or Eagle River who attend a program in Anchorage will not be provided bus transportation; absences will be excused.
Meanwhile, Anchorage Police say a new detour will be in place by 4 a.m. Friday. The detour will have one inbound lane of the Glenn open at the North Eagle River Road exit; traffic will be diverted to the South Eagle Road exit, travel over Artillery Road then onto Eagle View Drive before being diverted back onto the Glenn via a new access point.
The current detour will also remain as an option for motorists.
Anchorage Police say there will be no changes to the detour for the evening commute on the Glenn Highway.
The outbound lanes will remain open and inbound traffic will be diverted at the North Eagle River Road exit, then back to the Glenn from Hiland.
The Department of Transportation found the South Eagle River Road overpass to be "incredibly dangerous," saying the bridge span "was pulverized, lost structural integrity and is at risk of falling."
APD says DOT crews will work on removing the damaged bridge span over the next few days, and once it's safe, DOT will lift the detours.
Replacement of the bridge span will happen at a later date, which has not been released.
Thursday morning, inbound traffic on the Glenn Highway was severely backed up north of Eagle River, the day after the Glenn's southbound lanes were closed in the area due to an 18-wheeler's load striking an overpass.
Anchorage School District spokeswoman Catherine Esary said schools have no delayed start times or closures Thursday. ASD is working with police to handle Thursday morning's traffic concerns.
According to a Twitter post from ASD, if parents decide to keep their children home from school, absences and tardies will be excused; students will have the opportunity to make up any missed work.
"As always, parents should use their best judgment about whether or not to send their children to school today," the tweet read. "Due to the nature of the traffic delays, we are doing everything we can to ensure buses arrive on time and safely, however bus schedules are disrupted."
Both Eagle River and Chugiak High Schools reported students and teachers were running late Thursday, with school buses for Eagle River High running one to two hours late.
State of Alaska employees traveling to Anchorage on the Glenn for work on Friday can stay home, according to the Department of Transportation's Facebook page.
State employees were offered an additional hour to reach their workplaces on Thursday if they were affected by the inbound commute.
APD spokesman MJ Thim says do not call 911 to report the traffic backup. Police are aware and doing the best they can with extra patrols in the area to help monitor and control traffic. Motorists are also asked to act accordingly and be patient as they are guided through a detour route.
“Get your patient pants on and practice that and be very, very mindful," Thim said. "Leave early, drive safely, leave enough room in front of the vehicle in front of you. It’s going to be like this for the next several days.”
Police spokeswoman Renee Oistad said Wednesday that the 18-wheeler was inbound on the Glenn Highway when it collided with the South Eagle River overpass, in a crash reported at 1:09 p.m.
"The load was too tall and that’s why the collision occurred,” Oistad said.
All inbound lanes were closed at that location throughout the day Wednesday.
Late Wednesday night, Thim said the inbound lanes would remain closed for three to five days as Department of Transportation crews worked to repair the bridge.
Shannon McCarthy, with the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said a dedicated "bridge crew" assessed damage to the bridge.
"Our bridge crew and bridge engineers are very concerned about the damage to the span," McCarthy said Wednesday evening. "We want to be very cautious about this."
An officer on at the scene said there were no injuries.
"When they go through the permit process for a large oversize load, they would communicate how tall the load is," McCarthy said. "And we would communicate which bridges they would have to go around or over."
Scott Gross, Rick Rysso and Cassie Schirm contributed information to this story.
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