October 1, 2020
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As the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities guides repairs to highways and roads damaged in a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck the state on Nov. 30, it is currently focused on making “temporary fixes” to reopen them quickly, putting off more permanent restoration efforts until 2019.

[Above photo by Alaska DOT&PF.]

“Winter construction is particularly difficult, soils are frozen, and paving and painting is challenging,” the agency said in a statement on Dec. 5. “Additionally, these repairs are focused on restoring travel, and are not expected to have a 20-year life cycle, which is what the state expects from typical highway construction.”

Thus the Alaska DOT&PF stressed that the current focus of repair work is to “restore essential travel,” with more permanent repairs put off until next summer.

Photo by Alaska DOT&PF

“Typical summer construction has longer life cycles, including paint, paving and guardrails,” the agency stressed. “The department will continue identifying damage sites, make repairs and plan for permanent fixes.”

Shannon McCarthy, an Alaska DOT&PF spokesperson, explained in an interview with The Verge that crews worked around the clock through days of heavy snow, high winds of 65 mph, and frequent aftershocks to clear away damaged asphalt, dig out water-saturated sediments that slipped or sunk during the quake, then lay in fresh material and compact to create a new “base” atop which fresh asphalt could be laid. She noted that asphalt plant owners “switched on their heaters” right after the earthquake passed, knowing a major short-term road-repaving effort lay ahead.

Photo by Alaska DOT&PF

“We were fortunate that they did that,” McCarthy told The Verge. “By the time we’d finished the earthworks, the asphalt plants were ready to go.”

That helped the agency and its contractors’ complete temporary repairs to eight major transportation corridors severely damaged by the earthquake, re-opening them in just seven days.

“Since Friday’s earthquake, DOT&PF employees and Alaska contractors have worked tirelessly to re-establish essential transportation links,” said newly-installed Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) in a statement. “Regardless of the challenges, they have committed to finding solutions in record time.”

editor@aashto.org

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