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Construction Report: Wendell Avenue Bridge set to close for over a year

Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 5:26 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Starting Tuesday, Sept. 1, the Wendell Avenue Bridge over the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks will be closed for over a year. The bridge will be closed as crews work to remove the old bridge and build a new one.

“The Wendell Avenue Bridge was built in 1953 so it’s a pretty old bridge, it’s got a bunch of utilities running underneath it and it is not in great shape,” said Alaska DOT Northern Information Officer Caitlin Frye.

She said that DOT needed to upgrade the bridge to bring it up to modern standards. When the DOT compared the cost of upgrading it to simply replacing the entire bridge, they found that it would be more cost effective to demolish the old bridge and build a new one. While construction starts on Tuesday, Frye said they won’t be taking the bridge down immediately. “You will see the bridge is going to stay standing for a while after the bridge closes, but that is because we have to rip up all the ground right around the bridge in order to dig into the ground, access all of the utilities that need to be moved onto the new structure.”

After the utilities are moved, the contractor will begin building a temporary bridge that will allow crews to work to build the new bridge.

During the closure, pedestrian access over the bridge will be closed and detours will be in place. “There is a pedestrian detour we’ve got lots of signs up guiding people around and we also have some maps up online to help people navigate those,” said Frye.

DOT has released a map showing vehicle and pedestrian detours during the closure of the Wendell...
DOT has released a map showing vehicle and pedestrian detours during the closure of the Wendell Street Bridge. (Courtesy: AK DOT)(Alaska DOT)

The closure of this bridge comes on the heels of the University Ave. Bridge being closed early this summer. With two bridges being close for over a year, Frye said there will be inconveniences but the detours shouldn’t affect each other.

“The detours associated with the Wendell Bridge Closure are just a totally different set of roads than the detours associated with the University Avenue closures. So even though it is a big pain to be driving around two bridge closures all winter, those closures shouldn’t interact with each other to much on the roads,” Frye said.

The new bridge which is set to be finished in October of 2021 will have improved sidewalks, lanes with shoulders and improved access to pedestrian paths in the area Fyre said.

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