ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — A dump truck heading northbound on the New Seward Highway slammed into the Tudor Road overpass shortly after midnight Thursday morning, forcing the Alaska Department of Transportation to replace a girder hit by the truck's raised bed.
"The bed was up, the operator forgot to put it back down. So it probably hit at highway speed which is, you know, 55-65 miles per hour,” DOT spokesperson Shannon McCarthy said. “So as you can imagine, that's not good for the health of the bridge."
McCarthy says the department is moving swiftly to return the bridge to its full weight-bearing capacity. She says a bridge inspector flew into Anchorage from Juneau Thursday to begin assessing damage to the bridge.
The main damage is to the girder, the bridge's primary form of support. The crash has limited northbound traffic on New Seward to one lane, while Tudor's eastbound right lane and left turn onto the northbound Seward Highway also remain closed.
"We really want people to choose alternate routes if they're going north and south,” McCarthy said. “The New Seward Highway is a backbone for Anchorage. But luckily we do have some alternative routes."
She recommends C Street and Minnesota as viable northbound alternatives.
This is the second major truck vs. bridge collision Channel 2 has covered in the last year. In March, a semi-truck slammed into the overpass at the South Eagle River exit, running up a $1.8 million bill for repairs.
Bridge collisions are not unique to Alaska, McCarthy says. "If you Google ‘bridge strikes’ or ‘bridge accidents’, you'll see some of this video from the lower 48. It's really impressive."
McCarthy says there's not a clear timeline for repairs to the bridge at this point, but says it is not structurally sound to support normal high traffic volume.
"We are investigating as of today how quickly a local manufacturer could create a new girder for us,” she said. “We really want to get this bridge back and running to its full capacity because it is a high-demand structure."
Until then, beware of rush hour. A Channel 2 reporter saw traffic stretched from the Tudor overpass as far west as the eye could see right around 5:00 Thursday evening.
McCarthy did say she was optimistic they will have all northbound lanes opened up by early next week.
This is a developing story.