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Construction Report: DOT maintenance crews tasked with tackling permafrost and potholes

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 5:23 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Roads around Fairbanks are notoriously bad. Permafrost thawing causes roads to move, making bumps, dips and potholes. Drivers in Fairbanks are accustom to seeing orange signs alerting them of active road work throughout the summer.

Larger road construction projects are often subcontracted to private companies but small projects are repaired by the Alaska DOT Maintenance crews.

“Maintenance work that you see us doing includes pothole patching, some pavement repairs to fix those dips and bumps, brush cutting, painting lines like striping on the road. This is all done by our in-house maintenance forces,” said Caitlin Frye, the Northern Region Information Officer for Alaska DOT.

The jobs that the maintenance crews do are much shorter, taking only hours or days to complete. For the past week the crew has been on Chena Hot Springs Road.

“This is our third time out here this year to fix pavement, you know our crew lays down asphalt and then the road shifts underneath it and we have to come back again," Frye said.

Frye said this time of year the ground under the road is reaching maximum thaw, which means that damage can accelerate. “Despite the fact that it is getting colder outside, we are still, our roads are still thawing, so that means the ground underneath the pavement is still moving, thawing and shifting. So even though it is getting colder, and even sometimes after the first snow fall, we can continue to see more and more pavement damage.”

She said rain is a big problem for crews putting down pavement, “The rain really can slow down pavement work so we do as much as we can to prepare ahead of time during the rainy parts so we can get out there and get the work done when it is sunny.”

Frye said that drivers are often confused by what types of work are happening where. She encouraged drivers to use the Alaska 511 website or download the app to find up-to-date information about road projects.

She said the DOT is working to fix some of the worst roads around Fairbanks before winter hits.

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