Point MacKenzie Road damaged but still open to traffic
The two roads with the most earthquake damage in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Vine Road and Point MacKenzie Road, are still open to traffic.
Vine Road sustained the worst damage, with several hundred feet destroyed, according to Public Works director Terry Dolan. Dolan said crews are working on temporary fixes to repair the damage. On Vine Road, there is a detour up that he said will stay in place for some time.
"It's not a priority to fix that road at this time because we can't reasonably do that," Dolan said.
Point MacKenzie Road is a different story. Dolan said there's no detour around the damaged area and it's critical to keep access open for residents and for Point MacKenzie.
"Our priority is to keep residents who live out here with access to food, fuel, and water," Dolan said.
Mile 15 is about a quarter mile from the epicenter of Friday's 7.0 earthquake, Dolan said. There's a massive fissure down the center of the road, so traffic is down to one lane. The asphalt on Point MacKenzie Road is two to three times thicker than a typical road to accommodate heavy trucks going to and from Port MacKenzie.
While exact costs are still being figured out, Dolan expects the repairs to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"It makes it more expensive to replace. Every pound of asphalt has a cost and the thicker it is the more weight of asphalt you've got," he said.
Dolan said the roads are not in a condition to be plowed yet, which could pose a problem with the incoming snow storm expected to dump several inches in the Valley.
"There are fissures that cross the road and you have these 4-inch lips, and if you hit something like that with a snow plow, you're likely to damage the plow or even throw it into the oncoming traffic lane," Dolan said. "So we have to fix those lips before we can reasonably plow these roads."
The damage is also drawing a crowd. On Sunday, cars were doing a slow drive-by of Point MacKenzie with people holding their phones out of their windows.
Susan Ratcliffe's family lives in Anchorage, but has a cabin out on Point MacKenzie Road. On their way out to check their property, they stopped for a few photos at Mile 15.
"To have such large splits and for the crevasse to go down so low too, that surprises me," Ratcliffe said.
At Vine Road, adults and children have been playing in the massive, broken slabs all weekend.
Dolan said people are welcome to take pictures, but advises them to stay behind barricades and out of the center of the cracks.
"It's very foolish to expose yourself to damage on these roads. We've had so many aftershocks, some of them very large aftershocks, and these big pieces of earth will move in these aftershocks and if you happen to be between them you could be crushed," he said.
Construction crews are working to tear up the road where the fissures are and repair the area with gravel. Dolan said those are all short-term fixes that will be assessed again in the spring.
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