Popular Seward Highway watering hole still closed off to pedestrians

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — For years, the Seward Highway water pipe at mile marker 109 has been a popular watering hole for many Alaska residents and tourists alike. But ever since the magnitude 7 earthquake, barricades block pedestrians from the area. So when, if ever, will those barricades be removed?

Officials at the Alaska Dept. of Transportation & Public Facilities say there's no set timeline for exactly when, or if the barricades will be removed, but the earliest they say they'll be able to assess the situation will be sometime in the spring. Until then, D.O.T. wants people to remain cautious and heed the warning signs.

The spot has always been a traffic safety concern with people crossing a major highway to get to the pipe, but now an added concern following the earthquake is falling rocks. The flowing water is unregulated, and unmaintained by the government. It's a fact that actually draws some people to the the water pipe.

The Alaska Department of Transportation put up the barricades shortly after the magnitude 7 earthquake to deter people from venturing too close to the area. D.O.T. spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy says the site is a concern for the department.

"We're really concerned about public safety at this point with people standing there, especially with the aftershocks we've had more and more rock come down," McCarthy told Channel 2.

Ross Bieling, who visits the spot to stock up on water at least once every two or three weeks, isn't letting the barricades stop him. He's fashioned a tapered 10-foot pole made from PVC pipe that extends over the barricades.

"It's part of being Alaskan. You come out all times of year to get your water, and it's just the independence that we all want to have as Alaskans," Bieling said. "As long as we've been here the last 10 years, people come by here to stop and get water, and it's going to continue."

There are no fines or violations in place for anyone still seeking water from the spot, but D.O.T. remains firm that residents who bypass the warning signs are taking a significant risk that could potentially land them in the hospital, or worse.

"The rock is not just coming down right at the water pipe, it's coming all around it," McCarthy said, "so you really are taking an additional risk if you do something like that."



 
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