Federal money on the way to help improve Alaska’s bridges and roads

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 10:02 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Old Seward Highway Bridge that crosses Campbell Creek is considered to be in fair condition after 38 years of use in Anchorage. It’s one of the bridges expected to be improved with money from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Alaska will receive $225 million over five years out of the more than $27 billion being provided to U.S. states and tribal transportation facilities to fix bridges under the infrastructure package approved by Congress and the president, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation press release.

Alaska will use the funding to help improve 931 bridges around the state. The Federal Highway Administration considers 790 of them to be in fair condition, while 141 of them are considered to be in poor condition, according to the release. Alaska is slated to receive $45 million for fiscal year 2022.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is still deciding what exactly will be done to the bridges, and how much will be spent on each one.

However, according to department spokesperson Shannon McCarthy, the money definitely helps. She said Friday that about half of the funding earmarked for Alaska in the infrastructure bill will come to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

“Alaska doesn’t have a state-funded program where we build infrastructure with state funds,” said McCarthy. “We do rely on those federal formula funds to build the majority of our infrastructure here. And when we take federal money, there’s additional requirements to spending that money. We have to make sure that we do all of those things correctly ... and that adds a little bit of time onto every project.”

McCarthy said there are enough infrastructure needs in Alaska that the state transportation department will be able to spend any additional money it gets this year without having to come up with any new projects, at least initially, “because we do have such a backlog.”

There’s also more federal money to help Alaska roads.

Much of the road going through Denali National Park and Preserve has been closed since August 2021 due to the Pretty Rocks landslide damaging a section of the road. Acting Superintendent Brooke Merrell called it a “rock glacier” that has been moving for quite a while.

“We really started noticing it as a road maintenance issue in 2014, and it’s just moved at an exponentially faster rate each year,” she said.

Denali National Park and Preserve had to close the 92-mile road at mile 43. Now it has $25 million to find a solution. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced Friday those funds also come from the infrastructure act.

The money will be used to build a 400-foot steel bridge through the Pretty Rocks landslide area.

“At Pretty Rocks landslide, which is the work that would happen next year, would be the first of two years of constructing a bridge that would span the rock glacier itself,” Merrell said. “And it wouldn’t have any pilings going down into the glacier, it would span it completely. Which means the rock glacier would continue to flow under the bridge.”

No cars will be allowed past Mile 43 inside Denali National Park and Preserve this year. As for 2023, Merrell said they’ll cross that bridge when they get to it.

Construction is expected to begin in 2022 and finish in 2023.

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