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Funny River Road closes for 37 hours after culvert collapse

Funny River Road had to be rapidly rebuilt this weekend after a culvert beneath the road failed.
Alaska Department of Transportation
Courtesy Photo
Funny River Road had to be rapidly rebuilt this weekend after a culvert beneath the road failed.

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 around milepost eight. 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. Yesterday morning at 10 a.m., one lane opened.

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 almost-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 point at mile eight will remain narrow for the foreseeable future. Crews working these past few days installed a temporary replacement culvert — the road won’t be fully fixed until it’s addressed during the larger repair project this summer.

Riley Board is a Report For America reporter covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula for KDLL.
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