Crews scramble to repair earthquake damaged roads
It's an around-the-clock effort to install the new Mirror Lake exit ramp on the inbound Glenn Highway. Traffic has been reduced to one lane in each direction, after the ramp collapsed during the earthquake.
It's still bad two days later, and crews expect things to get worse on Monday, as people return to work. The head of the Central Division of the Alaska Transportation Department echoed the advice of the mayor and other city officials.
"If you don't have to go to work, stay home," said Dave Kemp.
He says it's not just that particular stretch of the road that has him concerned. Work continues in order to replace both off-ramps of Minnesota Drive at International Road, while crews also focus on a portion of the Seward Highway at 36th Avenue, where the road buckled in the earthquake.
"We've had a lot of damage due to aftershocks. We continue to see cracks getting larger with all the aftershocks we've been having," said Kemp.
While the broken roads are challenging, finding and utilizing the good ones has proven difficult, too.
"We're also challenged by our lack of alternate routes, unlike a lot of places in the Lower 48, we don't have a lot of alternatives," Kemp said.
Plus, it's winter; not the ideal time of year for road construction.
"It's a pretty challenging time of year to be trying to do repair work, especially laying down asphalt," he said.
Crews have yet to lay down asphalt, as it takes several days to get it hot enough to use. Construction companies fired up their tanks right after the earthquake. Still, they have their own issues to deal with as they rebuild the damaged roads.
"A lot of our equipment has been winterized, was winterized," said Tim Schwanke, construction division manager of Pruhs Construction. "We have to get that equipment going again, get it warmed up, in the shop, get it mobilized, get it out to the job."
As the work continues, the head of the Alaska Department of Transportation asked that commuters do them a favor.
"Please be patient with our crews. Be patients with our contractors. Give them plenty of room to do their jobs, so that we can get this recovery effort wrapped up," said DOT commissioner Marc Luiken.
The Mirror Lake off ramp could open as early as Wednesday.
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