Construction Report: Emergency repairs on the Dalton Highway

DOT conducts multiple emergency repairs on the Dalton Highway.
Published: Jul. 4, 2023 at 12:03 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Dalton Highway has faced multiple incidents in 2023, requiring the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) to conduct emergency repairs. Both of the impacted areas occurring near bodies of water.

“That’s a road that needs to stay open,” said John Perreault, a public information officer with the Dept. of Transportation. The Dalton Highway provides access between the north slope and Fairbanks, providing large commercial trucks a route to bringing in materials to resource development operations such as oil and mining. “That’s a part of Alaska’s backbone and in order to keep Alaska moving, DOT does their best to make sure that road stays open to commerce and travel,” Perreault said.

Keeping that flow of traffic moving has been a challenge so far this summer as the highway has faced two incidents of emergency repairs. The first incident came on June 8, when the Sagavanirktok or Sag River washout the Dalton Highway at milepost 403.5. The erosion from the Sag River required the DOT to shutdown that section of the highway, about 12 miles south of Deadhorse. In response to the washout, the DOT brought in tons of rock to repair the lost segment of road, which had eroded to the centerline. They also built a spur dike to protect the vulnerable section of road from further water erosion. The dike acts like a shield pushing the river’s current away from the road.

The washout proved to be challenge as the DOT has had to bring in materials from sites that are “hundreds” of miles away. This means bringing a truck full of rocks or bringing in heavy equipment can take several hours. The land itself adds to the challenges of the rural highway as permafrost, animals and more all present difficulties for the truck drivers.

The other site of concern, Koyukuk Bridge no. 1, is facing similar issues. While erosion hasn’t damaged the land, the bridge was damaged by ice. Located at milepost 188 of the Dalton Highway, Koyukuk Bridge no. 1 underwent emergency repairs starting on June 21. A girder supporting the bridge had been damaged by the ice during break up season leaving the structure vulnerable to collapse. To address the issue, the DOT hired a contractor and to repair to bridge, additional support girders were put in place near the damaged girder.

The bridge work has been completed and the section of road at milepost 403.5 is open for two lane traffic, but the work there isn’t quite finished.

In the future, the DOT may conduct projects aimed at mitigating the possibility of further issues caused by water and ice.