Construction project causing major slowdowns across the state
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s that time of year again where drivers experience delays on highways throughout Alaska.
Although Alaskans are accustomed to this common summer theme — jokingly called construction season — the new influx of travelers is extending those delays.
Compared to last year, when there were few travelers on the road due to the pandemic, this year there are higher numbers, according to Shannon McCarthy with the Department of Transportation. He said they are almost back to 2019 levels.
“We are just about at 2019 levels, which is kind of exciting, that means a lot of people, our independent travelers are coming and Alaskan’s are getting out and about,” McCarthy goes on to say, “so with that great higher traffic volumes, which is good, except, that we also have a lot of construction and so people are getting caught up in delays.”
Some of the big projects to look out for when headed to the Matanuska Susitna Borough is Glenn Highway at Mirror Lake, and on Parks Highway through Wasilla and Pittman to Big Lake.
And there are also four Seward Highway projects currently underway, including the rockfall area at MP 114-104, road improvements from Bird Creek to Indian, and the bridge replacement at the Portage curve.
McCarthy said all these major projects are expected to last through the summer. She said during the winter months around 8,000 to 9,000 cars pass through the area past Potter Marsh, but during the summer that number jumps to 22,000 cars per day.
And at the end of the day, McCarthy said construction is a huge economic boom for Alaska.
Candice McDonald, co-owner of Salmon Berry Travel and Tours, said they expect construction delays each year for their drivers, but it does hurt the books.
“We do expect it, and try to work it into our day, but, sometimes when it’s worse than other times, or, when it’s happening on both highways out of Anchorage, it does tend to add lots of payroll hours that we were hoping not to add, but we expect it,” she said.
McDonald added that she wouldn’t have it any other way though, she is just glad people are returning to Alaska.
“Frankly, we’re just glad to be on the road again,” she said. “Because last summer we delivered groceries a couple of days a week to Girdwood, but other than that our vans didn’t leave town, so we’re just trying to be thankful.”
McDonald said if their tourist-filled buses hit delays, the tour guides will fill that time with fun facts about Alaska. And if they get really desperate they will sing songs to the travelers.
Guest are always warned about possible delays during the tour but, Mcdonald said, they will always spend the full amount of time sightseeing.
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