From straightening curves in high-accident locations to replacing eight bridges, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has grand plans to rehabilitate a 15-mile stretch of Seward Highway.
The total project calls for upgrades from milepost 75 near the bottom of Turnagain Pass to milepost 90 near the Girdwood intersection. The first phase of the project, which excludes a section in the middle of the project, was recently awarded to Granite in a $51-million contract in Girdwood, Alaska.
The project will offer pavement rehabilitation, drainage and shore protection improvements, along with road resurfacing and realignment, new passing lanes, enhanced pedestrian facilities, the rehabilitation of one bridge and the rebuilding of eight others. The Granite-awarded first phase includes the rehabilitation or replacement of the Ingram Creek Bridge, Peterson Creek Bridge, Virgin Creek Bridge and Glacier Creek Bridge.
First-phase construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2018 with completion planned for fall 2020.
The second phase of the project, mileposts 77.7 to 81, will start in 2020 and take about two years to complete. Total cost of the project is expected to reach near $250 million.
Originally completed in 1951, the Seward Highway was damaged in places, including in the project area, by a 1964 earthquake.
In cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, Alaska transportation officials expect to increase safety and extend the service life of the roadway. The project corridor includes road intersections, the Twentymile River boat launching area and an Alaska Railroad Portage Station.
As the only land connection to Whittier and to communities on the Kenai Peninsula, the portion of the highway slated for upgrades receives heavy passenger vehicle, commercial truck and seasonal tourism industry traffic. With no passing lanes currently designed into the roadway stretch, residents and tourists experience heavy congestion during the peak summer period. The project will add five miles of passing lanes.
The project will improve recreational access at Placer River and Portage Creek, improve drainage, replace guardrails and culverts and add new parking areas for the hooligan fishery.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.