‘It’s a tough little bridge’: DOT says Eklutna overpass won’t fall, still seeking driver who cracked it

A shot off the highway ramp of the Eklutna overpass. In the southbound lane, someone cracked...
A shot off the highway ramp of the Eklutna overpass. In the southbound lane, someone cracked the concrete at the bottom of the bridge. DOT would like to talk to that person.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Sometime last weekend, someone ran into the overpass in Eklutna on their way into Anchorage and took a nice chunk out of it.

The integrity of the bridge is still intact, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation. However, the department is still looking for information on who did it.

Shannon McCarthy, a department spokesperson, said that bridge in particular is a little bit shorter than many of the other bridges along the Glenn Highway at 15 feet, 10 inches. She said it gets hit about once every year.

“And it’s a tough little bridge,” McCarthy said. “So most of the time when someone whacks it, they end up with the damage and the bridge is fine.”

Someone took a pretty good chunk out of the southbound Eklutna Bridge overpass on the #GlennHighway this weekend. They...

Posted by Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities on Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Under the department’s Facebook post about the crack, some commenters are pointing fingers at the department and the bridge for it being too short.

McCarthy said when the bridge was built in 1978, it was built a foot taller than the standards were at the time. The new standard for bridges on the highway is 16 to 17 feet of clearance, she added.

To replace the bridge or make it taller would be far to expensive to be a reasonable option at this time, McCarthy said.

The steel girders that are under the concrete of the bridge are able to withstand about 270,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, she said. She added that after repairs they are “good as new,” and they haven’t had to do that since 2012.

Some commenters questioned if there are enough warning signs leading up to the bridge. McCarthy said there are a lot of signs leading up to the bridge, including some with flashing lights warning drivers of the clearance height.

McCarthy said if the driver had reported the incident, the problem would likely be in the hands of the insurance companies at this time. She said commercial drivers typically have about $1 million in coverage for this exact scenario.

If the culprit of the Eklutna overpass crack is found, she said it would be a very similar situation. Only now that it’s gone unreported, the conversation would likely include Alaska State Troopers as well.

McCarthy said this is a reminder for commercial drivers to check and plan their routes accordingly. When they apply for their permits, she said department staff will assist in planning the route.

“This bridge if you go up and over the ramp, it only adds about 30 seconds of time to your commute,” McCarthy said.

Anyone with information on the damage is asked to contact the department at 907-365-1200.

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