Emergency services not expected to be affected by Wendell Bridge closure in downtown Fairbanks

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 4:11 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Tuesday the Wendell Avenue Bridge across the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks closed for construction. The project, which is expected to take over a year to complete, will demolish the old bridge over the river and build a new one. During this time the river crossing will be closed, forcing motorists to take a detour around the closure on either the Cushman Street Bridge or the Steese Highway Bridge.

While inconvenient for drivers, the project raises the question of what will this mean for emergency services and their ability to respond to calls.

“The Wendell [Avenue] Bridge closing down won’t affect any response times from FPD, we’ll just take alternate routes to the locations we need to go to,” said Fairbanks Police Lieutenant Ron Dupee.

Dupee went on to say that part of a police officer’s job is to know the streets in the town, and know how to get around town. He added that FPD also keeps officers informed on any road closures that are happening.

We also spoke with Fairbanks Fire Department (FFD) Battalion Chief Joy Cottle, who said “You should see minimal changes in response time, seconds to minutes. When we are going ’lights and sirens’ we have the right of way, and we have two main thoroughfares: we can go down Cushman to get to the other side of that, [and] we also have the other fire station coming from Aurora Subdivision.”

She said that FFD is updated by the contractors any time there is a change in traffic so they can plan accordingly.

Both Cottle and Dupee said the biggest thing that helps emergency services respond faster is for drivers to pull to the right side of the road and stop when they hear sirens or see lights.

Wendell Avenue Bridge is one of three bridges that are closed in Fairbanks. The University Avenue bridge is closed on the west side of Fairbanks, as well as a bridge over the Chena River on Fort Wainwright. The University Ave. Bridge project will have a temporary pedestrian bridge that the Department of Transportation said emergency vehicles can drive across. Fairbanks Fire Department is providing mutual aid to Fort Wainwright Fire Department while the bridge on post is closed.

The Wendell Avenue bridge is expected to be reopened by October of 2021.

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