Post-Flooding Gravel Work to Raise Dalton Highway

A contractor is expected to begin work soon building up a portion of the Dalton Highway severely damaged  earlier this year by overflow ice and flooding from the Sag River. It’s part of plan to armor the major North Slope oil field supply conduit against future ice and flood impacts.

Spring flooding along the Dalton Highway. Credit Alaska Department of Transportation
Spring flooding along the Dalton Highway.
Credit Alaska Department of Transportation

Flooding and resulting washouts made the norther section of the Dalton Highway impassable for over 2 weeks in late May and early June before emergency repairs enabled the road to re-open. Now the State department of transportation is making upgrades, like elevating the road to prevent future damage, by adding a lot material to the road bed. DOT project manager Michael Lund says it’s taken much of the summer just to mine gravel for the work south of Deadhorse.

Lund calculates that the work will require about one hundred thousand truckloads of gravel. All the material is needed for a project that’s been extended 4 miles and raised an additional 7 feet in the worst ice and flood impacted area.

The changes have upped the cost of the project from $27 million to $43 million.  Lund says the investment will protect the hardest hit section from future trouble, but other areas could suffer the same fate.

Lund adds that the DOT will stockpile riprap and gravel for readily access to make future flood repairs quickly.  Upgrade work on the next section of the Dalton, from milepost 405 to 414 is scheduled for next summer. Longer term projects are aimed at upgrading and paving the entire last 50 miles of the Dalton Highway.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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