Finishing Sterling Highway rehab stalled by fire

Aug 28, 2019

The final bit of paving on the three-year-long Sterling Highway Rehabilitation Project (near Skilak Loop) is being held up, and managers aren’t sure when they will be able to resume.
At issue is the location of the last section of work, which unfortunately is precisely in the middle of where the Swan Lake Fire jumped the Sterling Highway a week and a half ago.
“We were really on schedule to wrap up, even the first time when the fire came in and was right up against the roadway, we were still set and on schedule to be substantially complete by the end of the season,” said the DOT’s Shannon McCarthy in Anchorage. “However, as (the fire) has gotten closer to the road, it has really hampered our ability to get work done on there. Unfortunately, when we have the road closing repeatedly over many days, it really slows our contractor down.”
While the company helped create fire lines along the Sterling Highway last month when the fire first surged east, work crews from Granite Construction were ordered evacuated from the area last week due to the extreme fire danger. McCarthy says the fire will prompt the state to give Granite a delay, but it will not incure extra expense.
Meanwhile, a little farther south, McCarthy says the days of flaggers, pilot cars, detours and delays are numbered for commuters who traverse Cohoe and Kasilof every day.
"(I) actually have great news about that project. They are really on track to be substantially complete this year. They just haven't been impacted by the fires. And they've been able to do a lot of work. They're having to do some hauling, and then once they pave, they'll still have to do some electrical work,” she said. “But I think for the most part, public is going to be really pleased with the progress on that. And I think that other than some maybe some punch list items, that one will be substantially complete this year.”
McCarthy says the summer-long project at the intersection of the Sterling Highway and Main Street in Homer, is soon to finish.
“They're actually really close to wrapping that up. They just poured curb and gutter yesterday, and then they'll pave. And then once they complete that they'll move on to the Pioneer Avenue pavement preservation job,” she said. “And that will happen in the next couple weeks.”
And when that wraps up, she said crews will move up the street for another project before construction season is over.
“We want to be substantially complete with the intersection before we start working on Pioneer Avenue. It's just a big impact if we do both at the same time,” McCarthy said.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has a handy website for road information. In addition to construction updates, it has road and smoke conditions stemming from this summer’s fires.