Richardson Highway reopens after weeklong closure due to flood damage

Exterior: a washed-out highway bridge
The worst damage from the flash floods was at the Bear Creek Bridge, which is scheduled for replacement. (Alaska Department of Transportation)

The main artery between Fairbanks and Valdez reopened yesterday after a weeklong closure due to flood damage. 

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Danielle Tessen says the worst damage was under a 70-year-old bridge at milepost 233, south of Black Rapids.

“The road actually completely washed out at that bridge, causing this closure to be a little bit longer because we had to rebuild the road to open it up,” she said.

The flash-floods tore out most of the Bear Creek bridge over the Richardson Highway and damaged six others in a stretch from milepost 218 and 234. (Alaska Department of Transportation)

Still, the closure was shorter than many expected given the extent of the damage. Tessen says crews worked day and night work to bring earth and material to the site to rebuild the road.

Pilot cars and flaggers will guide traffic through seven areas where crews are still working, including at Bear Creek.

“We have crews that are gonna be actively working. Some of that work is going to be cleaning out culverts, working in the ditches, but we also have a ton of work still happening at Bear Creek,” Tessen said. “But the good news is you can get through now.”

The flooding also damaged a fiber-optic cable, limiting cellphone and internet service throughout the region.

Th Bear Creek Bridge was on a DOT replacement schedule even before the washout. The project is in the design stage and scheduled to start construction in 2025.

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