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Drivers should expect delays as work on Sterling Highway landslide continues over next few days

The Sterling Highway near milepost 50 has been reopened after a landslide blocked the road...
The Sterling Highway near milepost 50 has been reopened after a landslide blocked the road early Oct. 31, 2021.(Alaska Department of Transportation)
Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 8:47 AM AKDT
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COOPER LANDING, Alaska (KTUU) - Drivers utilizing the Sterling Highway should expect continued delays for the next few days as repair crews work to clear the road near Cooper Landing following a significant landslide.

One lane of the highway was reopened to traffic on Monday afternoon after a landslide closed the road at Mile 50 early Sunday morning and into Monday.

Shannon McCarthy, statewide communication director for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said both lanes are now cleared of debris, but only one lane is being used for through traffic, as crews continue flagging operations while they repair the guardrail that was damaged. According to an updated Facebook post, delays of up to one hour are expected.

The Sterling Highway near milepost 50 has been reopened after a landslide blocked the road...
The Sterling Highway near milepost 50 has been reopened after a landslide blocked the road early Oct. 31, 2021.(Alaska Department of Transportation)

“This is actually one of our oldest sections of highway,” McCarthy said. “It’s narrow, very little shoulder, and of course there’s a steep slope on one side, with a river on the other.”

The area around Cooper Landing is currently undergoing a massive road project, known as the Sterling Highway Milepost 45-60 Project, that is in the early stages of construction. The plan calls for a complete bypass of the area where the landslide occurred, with six separate phases of road construction that is expected to stretch into 2027.

McCarthy said the new stretch of highway will be straighter and feature wider pullouts on the side for stopped motorists. The current stretch of the Sterling Highway is notoriously narrow and windy.

“It’s not a modern road, it doesn’t have the shoulders, it doesn’t have the nice, wide sweeping turns in it,” she said. “It’s a narrow road, the geometry isn’t as good for drivers, and obviously, we don’t like to have a road really close to this terrain.”

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