Alaska News

These construction projects in Southcentral Alaska could change summer driving plans

A long winter is finally giving way to green leaves, long days — and the annual rite of summer road construction.

This year, a number of projects could snarl traffic as they remedy problems with aging pavement, busy intersections, and pedestrian access.

Work in and around Anchorage includes expanding the congested Dowling Road roundabouts, repaving Airport Heights Drive and the Old Seward Highway, widening O’Malley Road, and improving a dangerous Mat-Su roadway.

The list of projects by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities marks a transition, transportation officials say. During the past few summers, road crews focused on fixing the damage left by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that shook the region in 2018.

The bulk of those projects are now finished, said transportation department spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy. Crews also completed work on a major Glenn Highway project last week at the Mirror Lake exit that led to long traffic delays last summer.

Here are six significant projects that could tie up traffic this summer:

1. Dowling Road roundabouts

The double roundabouts at Dowling Road and the Seward Highway were fairly notorious when they opened back in 2004, the first traffic circles in the state. Crashes rose dramatically in the immediate aftermath but later dropped off. DOT tweaked the roundabouts in 2009.

Now more changes to the busy traffic pattern are coming.

The on-and-off ramps of the Seward Highway closed May 19 at Dowling as crews with Quality Asphalt Paving, or QAP, started a multi-year project that will expand the roundabouts to improve traffic flow as well as replace the overpass bridge.

The ramps will reopen June 3 to divert traffic off the Seward Highway so work on the bridge can begin. There will be no stops required at the existing Dowling Road roundabout areas.

Dowling is scheduled to be closed from Brayton Drive to Homer Drive until October.

Traffic has increased in the area since the roundabouts were installed and design changes will help alleviate backups and delays, McCarthy said.

“What we’ve learned over the years has really improved roundabouts,” she said. “And this, of course, is a really heavily trafficked area, so I think doing some geometry changes and things like that should make it a better thoroughfare for people.”

The major work for the project is expected to finish this summer, although more work will happen next year.

Cost: Roughly $33 million, most of it federal money.

2. O’Malley Road reconstruction

O’Malley Road, the east-west corridor connecting the Upper Hillside to major arteries like the Seward Highway, is in the middle of a major multi-year reconstruction project to improve safety and capacity at intersections, transportation officials say.

Sidewalks will also be added to the busy South Anchorage roadway this summer.

Construction by QAP began last year on O’Malley Road and is continuing this summer and into October. The project will widen the roadway and add pathways on both sides of the road.

The project this year spans from Livingston Street to Hillside Drive and will include nightly road work and crews working adjacent to the street from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily. The speed limit is reduced in the area.

The project began last year and is scheduled to be finished next fall.

Cost: $22 million in mostly federal funds.

3. Old Seward Highway from Dimond Boulevard to Dowling Road

The Old Seward Highway is showing its age, officials say. Quality Asphalt’s crews will repave a worn section of the Old Seward from Dimond Boulevard to Dowling Road this summer and make sidewalks more accessible.

The road, first built in 1951 and repaired many times since, is a nearly 8-mile former routing of the Seward Highway that starts in a Midtown neighborhood and ends near the Potter Section House.

The area is a “dense transportation corridor” that has aging pavement, McCarthy said.

Work on the section that’s now a busy commercial artery began Monday and will continue during summertime weekdays, as well as on occasional weekends. The project includes pavement resurfacing as well as improvements to drainage, intersections, and access.

Cost: $4.3 million from mostly federal funds

4. Airport Heights Drive

Airport Heights Drive connects residential neighborhoods with the Glenn Highway as well as Alaska Regional Hospital and other large facilities.

Right now, the road is not very pedestrian-friendly. A multi-year project to improve sidewalks and pavement for the busy road is expected to finish by the end of June.

Construction began last summer and resumed this summer between DeBarr Road and the Glenn Highway. Granite Construction crews are resurfacing the aging road surface, officials say.

The project will also improve sidewalks along Airport Heights Drive and make them accessible.

Cost: $1.2 million, mostly federal funding

5. Knik-Goose Bay Road

A multi-year construction project will begin this summer to add lanes and improve safety on a notoriously dangerous stretch of road in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The project that isn’t expected to finish for several more years will turn Knik-Goose Bay Road into a four-lane, separated highway, McCarthy said.

The road, which is often called “KGB,” has more than 19,000 drivers on it every year and has a high number of deadly accidents.

“When you get that level of traffic on a two-lane road with opposing traffic, there’s very few gaps for the public to get in and out with a car and trying to take a right or left,” she said.

The work will come in phases, with utility relocations beginning this summer and a bulk of the construction work slated for next summer. Drivers should expect some minimal delays this summer.

Cost: $40 to $50 million, mostly federal funding.

6. C Street intersections at Tudor and Dimond

Officials aim to improve pedestrian safety at two busy intersections on C Street this year by creating a safe place for people to stand if they are unable to fully cross the large multi-lane roadway, McCarthy said. Many pedestrians are struck by vehicles on busy, multi-lane roadways where speed limits are higher.

Pedestrian deaths in Anchorage have spiked in recent years. A number of pedestrian incidents have occurred at the C Street intersections at Dimond Boulevard and Tudor Road.

Anchorage musician Peter Ettinger died at Tudor Road and C Street in August 2020 when a pickup hit him while he crossed against the light in a crosswalk.

The QAP construction project will add a wide island to the middle of the crosswalk to give pedestrians a safe place to stand if they can’t make it across the road before the traffic signal changes.

Work will begin on the project this summer. There will be four separate full intersection closures, but the transportation will announce the dates of the closures in advance. Work is slated to be mostly complete by the end of next summer.

Cost: $6.7 million, mostly federal funding.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified a section of road that will be closed by Dowling Road construction until October.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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