A culvert washed out by heavy snowmelt resulted in a 37-hour closure of Funny River Road this weekend.
Alaska Department of Transportation spokesperson Justin Shelby said the culvert that failed was 35 feet underground, beneath the road near Mile 8. There were no vehicle accidents or injuries as a result of the damage.
However, the road was closed in both directions from Friday night at 9 p.m. so that DOT crews could replace the culvert and roadway. One lane reopened at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Emergency Management Department released frequent alerts and updates to the phones of impacted residents, and to Facebook. A Friday night alert said, “Residents should prepare to stay home and avoid the area. The road will not be passable.”
Shelby said crews worked 24/7 through the weekend to re-open the road.
“Our maintenance and operations crews excavated all the way down to that culvert to place a replacement culvert, and then rebuild the road on top of it,” he said.
That work was completed Sunday, but crews will still be in the area cleaning up the site until tomorrow.
During the closure, crew members at the Central Emergency Services station on Funny River Road past the washout were prepared to provide airlift service as necessary, but according to the borough, no airlifts were needed during the closure.
Shelby didn’t have the exact numbers on how many individuals were impacted by the nearly two-day closure, but the road is the only way in and out for residents of the nine miles of Funny River Road past the collapse.
Some commenters on Facebook said the collapse is evidence of the need for a bridge connecting Funny River to Sterling, and to the highway.
Shelby said that’s why DOT worked through the weekend to quickly reopen the road.
“We really prioritized this one given the limited access for everybody who lives back on this road,” he said.
Funny River Road was already scheduled for a full repaving project this summer. Work on that project actually began this week, and one major component of the work will be assessing many of the culverts under the road and potentially repairing or replacing them.
Shelby said the road will remain narrow at Mile 8 for the foreseeable future. Crews have installed a temporary replacement culvert, with a full repair taking place during the larger project this summer.