One year later: Road repair progress report

Published: Nov. 8, 2019 at 9:52 AM AKST
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Part 1 in our series "One Year Later: The Quake. The Aftermath. The Recovery."

The November 30 earthquake will forever be remembered as one of the biggest challenges faced by Alaskans, many of whom were on their morning commute when it happened.

The magnitude 7.1 quake shook the Anchorage area around 8:30 a.m, during the peak of morning rush hour, presenting a daunting task for the Alaska Department of Transportation. That Friday started out as a typical morning at work for DOT project engineer Mahear Abou Eeid - until he felt the shake.

"I was here (at work), and the monitors just started shaking and fell off," said Abou Eid. "I started heading home to go check it out and see what was happening and that's when I got a phone call. They were like, 'come in!'"

Just one hour later, he was tasked with coming up with a plan to repair the cracked, crumbling, and impassable stretch of road that was the Minnesota Drive ramp at West International Airport Road, a critical corridor leading up to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

"Right when we got there, we went as quickly as possible, got an accelerated schedule," said Abou Eid. "We just started hauling in and hauling out materials. Stockpiling, getting things going so that we can efficiently place everything and not have any lag time."

It was time to get to work, and quick. "Within two hours we had an excavator taking up part of the pavement and starting work," he said.

It was a scene that made its way around the world when it happened, and again when emergency repairs were made less than four days later. It was a difficult assignment, especially during winter when snow and freezing temperatures make it harder to compact asphalt before it cools. Construction season was over, but at this point, it was all hands on deck.

"They had a late season, so some of their equipment wasn't 100% winterized, so we got lucky there," said Abou Eid. "Just having the contracting community be able to talk to each other and get equipment out there. At one point, I was going to call a sand truck to come sand the road to make sure there wasn't ice for the equipment, and the contractor had already called a friend that worked for the sanding company. So it was just everyone working together making it happen."

This interchange was just one of about eight major corridors repaired with emergency fixes a few days following the quake. Portions of road along the Seward Highway, the Glenn Highway, and out in the Mat-Su including the Glenn Highway north to Palmer, or 'the Palmer flyover,' the Parks Highway, and the place of another photo that went viral, Vine Road - all needing immediate emergency repairs.

"We felt pretty good about that," said spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation's central region, Shannon McCarthy. "We had actually done some lessons learned after we had a bridge strike on the Glenn Highway, and we had actually done a bit of training. We had fortified our conference room as an emergency operations center, and so when the earthquake happened, because a lot of us had just done training and we had done some lessons learned off of those smaller incidents, we were able to put those into action."

More than 200 spots along roads and bridges were left in a state of disrepair following the shake. With the help of the Federal Highway Administration, the DOT was able to secure more than $60 million in repairs for earthquake damage.

McCarthy says about $10 million worth and about 90% of repairs have been completed up to this point. The DOT is still evaluating which spots will need further repairs over the next few years.

"There are spots that are going to have to get a permanent repair, and that's because you don't get as good of a product typically if you're constructing in November, versus June," said McCarthy.

Some spots built up even better than they were before the quake.

"We expect to get 20 years out of any project we do, and of course, if we had a spot of road that was older, like from the 1970s then I expect that the repair will actually shore that piece of infrastructure up and it will be stronger," said McCarthy.

Strong, just like the community that answered the call.

"I made phone calls to subcontractors and within hours. There was one subcontractor who was out there within an hour of when I called him to ask for some of the seating, the stabilization, we were talking about striping, they were out there within a couple hours," McCarthy said. "Everybody was ready to help out, and that was a huge benefit to our success."

After evaluations are complete and all remaining permanent repairs get the go-ahead, the DOT hopes to have everything wrapped up by summer 2021.

McCarthy says the total dollar amount for 2020 construction will be over $30 million for earthquake construction projects.

Below is a list of the permanent repair projects the DOT already has lined up for the next two summers. The list will likely grow as evaluations in other areas are made.

2020 Construction
  • Willow-Fishhook Road MP 44.4 and MP 32.5
  • VFW Road South of Eagle River Bridge, and VFW Road across from Fish Alaska
  • Knik River Road MP 10.5
  • Clark-Wolverine Road MP 5.5 and MP 6.5
  • Buffalo Mine Road MP 0.5-0.6 and MP 3.0
  • Old Rabbit Creek Road
  • Huntley Road MP 0.1 and Clark-Wolverine Road MP 0.2-0.6
  • Glenn Highway Southbound at Mirror Lake between the on- and off-ramps
  • Glenn Parks Interchange and Mile post 34.9 Flyover Ramp
  • Fireweed Dr E of Loberg Lake
  • Woodworth Loop Road
  • Old Glenn at Palmer Off-Ramp MP 0.1
  • Trunk Road MP 1.0
  • NB Glenn Hwy MP 24.0 at Eklutna River
  • SB Glenn Hwy MP 24.0 at Eklutna River
  • NB Glenn Hwy MP 20.4 at Peter's Creek
  • SB Glenn Hwy MP 20.4 at Peter's Creek
  • SB Muldoon Road at Glenn Highway
  • NB Muldoon Road at Glenn Hwy
  • Briggs Bridge over Eagle River
  • SB Elmore across North and South Fork Campbell Creek
  • W Dowling Road MP 3.0
  • Minnesota Drive Railroad Underpass Bridge
  • Seward Hwy at DeArmon Overpass
  • McCarrey Street at Glenn Hwy
  • Sterling Hwy MP 96
  • Seward Highway-Tudor to 36th Ave
  • Minnesota Southbound- International Airport Ramp
  • Eagle River Road: near Prudhoe Bay Road & between Old Glenn
  • Highway and house at 14230 Harpold Loop, Eagle River
  • Southbound Old Glenn Highway North of Fire Lake & Old Glenn
  • Highway North of W Lake Ridge Road
  • Eagle River Road between VFW Road and Loana Drive
  • Eagle River Road near Lower Terrace St
  • Eagle River Road near Debbie Road
  • Birchwood Loop Rd N of Beach Lake Road
  • Birchwood Loop Road MP 5.75
  • Eklutna Lake Road MP 4-5
  • Hiland Road MP 3.1
  • Glenn Highway MP 40-68
  • Glenn Highway MP 58.5, MP 55
  • Glenn Highway MP 68.3-68.8
  • KGB Road MP 15.2
  • KGB Road MP 14.7
  • Glenn Highway MP 53.7
  • Glenn Highway MP 54.1
  • Glenn Highway MP 42.6
  • KGB Road MP 15.6
  • Glenn Highway MP 67.3, MP 67.9 and 68.0
2021 Construction
  • Briggs Bridge Pedestrian Undercrossing
  • Seward Highway North of Dimond Blvd Bridge
  • Dowling Overpass southeast slope
  • Seward Highway 300' south of MP 109 Northbound pullout to MP 111.5
  • Seward Hwy, 250' south of MP 114
  • Eagle River Loop North of Mills Bay Drive.
  • Northern Lights Blvd. Chester Creek west of Baxter
  • Old Seward Highway South of 76th Ave.
  • Fairview Loop Rd at Jackfish
  • Pittman Rd MP 0.7
  • Palmer-Wasilla Highway just E of Shenandoah Dr
  • Parks Hwy NB Mile Point 52.4
  • Parks Highway MP 76.4 at Kashwitna Lake Pullout
  • Parks Highway Hyder off-ramp
  • E Fairview Loop MP 0.25
  • Old Matanuska Road MP 1.3
  • Blue Lupine Drive Mile Point 2.09 West of Hyer Road
  • Hyer Rd 300' South of S Lower Road
  • SB Glenn Highway in left hand lane
  • Parks Hwy MP 33.6
  • Palmer-Wasilla Hwy 300' East of Cottonwood
  • Kenai Spur Highway MP 18.9 and MP 19.1-20.8
  • Kenai Spur Highway MP 35.1 and MP 35.7
  • Kenai Spur Highway MP 31
  • Seward Highway MP 50
  • Seward Highway MP 51
  • Eagle River Loop Pedestrian Undercrossing
  • Eagle River Loop Road Pedestrian Undercrossing
  • Dowling Road and 3rd Ave.
  • 3rd Ave at Post Road
  • Vine Road MP 2.5
  • Point Mackenzie Road MP 0.0
  • Beaver Lake Road MP 0.0 to 0.9
  • Point Mackenzie Road MP 2.0
  • Point Mackenzie Road MP 4.2
  • Point Mackenzie Road MP 6.0
  • Point Mackenzie Road MP 15.2
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