Traffic slows to a crawl on the way into Anchorage as Glenn shutdown continues

Published: Mar. 22, 2018 at 7:25 AM AKDT
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The morning after an 18-wheeler hauling a modular building smashed into the South Eagle River overpass bridge, traffic has slowed to a crawl on the usually-bustling Glenn Highway.

On Thursday, single file lines of traffic followed detour signs through downtown Eagle River at the North Eagle River exit and back onto the Glenn Highway from Hiland Road.

Traffic was exacerbated by the large amount of vehicles that typically pass through that stretch of the highway when commuting in to Anchorage for work during prime drive time hours.

That kind of traffic is usually heavy due to the number of commute drivers from Eagle River, Chugiak, and Mat-Su area residents, however with lanes shut down and a lengthy detour, the commute time is increasing.

By 6 a.m. Thursday, traffic was backed up on the Glenn all the way to Chugiak, with many commuters frustrated with the congestion.

APD was in force flagging to help ease the confusion of the route, noting that while drivers can drive across the damaged overpass bridge, no one can drive under it right now.

MJ Thim, spokesperson for APD, told KTUU Thursday morning, "We want people to understand, regardless of where the detours are, they need to plan accordingly. They need to leave early, and they need to drive safely."

Despite this, no matter how early most commuters left the house Thursday, they were almost guaranteed to be caught in the gridlock unless they left in the very early hours of the morning.

Thim said that some drivers were observed Thursday morning trying to "cheat the system," by ignoring officer commands, and taking other routes.

"We've got people who are trying to really cheat the system, they're trying to go around the safety procedures that we have in place by using the emergency turnarounds or using the exits that are already closed off," Thim said.

"Follow where you're being led, to not try to cheat," Thim added. "Everybody needs to get where they need to go."

Additionally, Thim said that some people were calling 911 to report the traffic congestion. He said that line is for emergencies only, and asked the public not to call unless absolutely an emergency.

The closure started when the building, carried on a flatbed trailer, struck the South Eagle River overpass, sheering off the roof and the southern part of the overpass.

Right now, it is uncertain how long the closure will remain. In a statement issued by APD, they said, "Due to damage to the bridge, the inbound lanes of the Glenn Highway will remain closed indefinitely."

It is estimated that the closure could last up to five days as crews race to repair the damage to the bridge.

According to Thim, the traffic Thursday morning could potentially be the same in terms of delay on Friday, and maybe even longer.

"It could be the same delay for Friday commuters, and maybe even next week Monday as well," Thim said. "If people have the option to work from home, or if they can take the day off or come in late, it's recommended."

This is a developing story and will be updated.