Richardson Highway temporarily closed due to flood damage
GAKONA, Alaska (KTUU) - Flooding that damaged portions of the Richardson Highway has temporarily closed the road while crews from the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities work to replace culverts.
Department Spokesperson Danielle Tessen said that a blocked culvert near mile 187 of the Richardson Highway had caused Meier Lake’s water level to rise, and an old culvert had failed at approximately mile 167. Tessen said that luckily, department crews were located less than a mile away and were able to respond quickly to a large hole that developed in the highway asphalt at mile 167.
Tessen said that the Richardson Highway could tentatively open by 9 p.m. Friday night to one lane of traffic.
“Underneath the road the culvert became detached, meaning water then began, you know, running underneath the road, and so the issue really became with that culvert no longer working and functioning properly,” Tessen said. “We’re ripping up the road, taking out that old culvert, installing the new culvert in there, we’re going to put gravel on top so we’re not doing a whole paving production. At this time, our goal is to get that road open as quickly as possible. We will pave before winter, but at this time, our goal is just to get the new culvert in and get that road back open. Because it’s a pretty big detour for folks.”
Meier’s Lake Roadhouse is located between the two flood-damaged culverts at mile 170 of the Richardson Highway. Roadhouse Owner Linda Fraley estimated the Meier Lake water level had risen approximately 150 feet, beginning last Friday. Water flooded up under the roadhouse and around cabins on the property.
“We’re closed because the road is closed,” Fraley said.
Fraley estimated that the area received five times the typical amount of snowpack this winter. Fraley said she and others put 1,900 sandbags around the property to attempt to keep the water away and had applied for disaster assistance from the state. Fraley said that the department had provided a piece of heavy equipment to move material, working to alleviate the flooding.
“This year, we have seen a lot of flooding around the entire state,” Tessen said. “There’s a lot of water, we had an incredible winter with snowfall, increased water from that with the melting. And so we are seeing this and we do monitor culverts that we know are more vulnerable to failing like this one.”
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