Construction Report: Permafrost adds challenges to Chena Hot Springs Road repair

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 7:05 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A repaving project on Chena Hot Springs Road near Fairbanks is facing additional challenges as crews work to remove years of pavement from the road. The pavement has been laid down every summer in an attempt to smooth the roads out from thawing permafrost. The deepest spot crews have seen so far is 12 feet.

This is causing the project to take longer than usual to finish. This project includes replacing pavement from the roundabouts at the Steese Highway to Nordale Road, around six miles.

“What the crews are doing right now is they are working in the first two mile section. So all season they will be impacting no more than about two miles at a time,” said Caitlin Frye, Northern Region Information Officer for the Alaska Department of Transportation.

They expect to be able to begin paving the first mile of the road in the coming weeks and will finish paving the first section of road before they go on to the next.

Frye said that drivers should expect delays, “Twenty minutes is about how long we would expect it to be on the maximum end of things.”

Drivers will then have a pilot car to follow for the duration of the project.

While the repaving is the biggest improvement to the road, there will be other small changes.

“There will be functional LED lights along Chena Hot Springs Road. We are also adding acceleration lanes near Weller Elementary and then a couple of turn pockets at Hot Springs Gas,” Frye said.

Crews will also be adding a high friction treatment to the pavement at the roundabouts to help with traction in the winter. She said that this treatment will make the pavement stickier and hopefully keep drivers from sliding around as much in the winter.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of summer 2021.

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