Alaska News

Richardson Highway flooding closure now expected to last through weekend

The Richardson Highway, the main route between Valdez and Fairbanks, is now expected to remain closed through the weekend due to washouts from flash flooding.

The roughly 16-mile closed section is in the Black Rapids area south of Delta Junction in the foothills of the eastern Alaska Range.

A new washout Tuesday at a bridge over roiling Bear Creek plus the extent of earlier damage and the ongoing effort to find rock for repairs prompted the delay, according to state transportation officials.

Flaggers are monitoring traffic at both sides of the closure, which extends from Mile 218 to 234. For Valdez travel, drivers can detour around the closure by using the Tok Cutoff and the Alaska Highway. The Denali Highway, which intersects with the Richardson south of the closed area, remains accessible.

Normally, about 250 vehicles travel the now-closed section of the Richardson on weekdays, a number that rises to about 400 on weekends, according to Danielle Tessen, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Now, some drivers are getting to the closure without realizing they won’t be allowed to continue, Tessen said.

“People want to go through,” she said. “They can’t.”


The road at Bear Creek initially washed out Monday, followed by flash flooding at Ruby and One Mile creeks. Flooding created erosion problems in multiple places beyond that. Ditches filled with water that then overflowed onto the road and culverts got plugged.

Transportation crews now plan to use an excavator to reroute Bear Creek into its original channel below the bridge, Tessen said, “essentially just digging and pushing that material.”

Then they’ll bring in riprap and rebuild the road that washed out, she said. Crews are also still trying to assess all the damage along the highway and find nearby supplies of rock to start repairs.

No estimate on the costs of the repairs was available on Wednesday.

The area is receiving heavy rainfall, with more in the forecast, the National Weather Service said.

Most of the Alaska Range had an inch of rain on Monday, forecasters said. But 3 to 5 inches fell in the Black Rapids area, which caused the highway washouts.

Periods of heavy showers over the southeast Interior Sunday and Monday night dropped over an inch of rain, according to a special weather statement. Another half inch of rain was expected Wednesday, causing water to rise sharply on all rivers in the area.

“This additional rain could cause flooding and landslide issues Wednesday and Wednesday night in the Denali Park area,” the alert said. “This added rain could add to the flooding and landslide issues along the Richardson Highway near Isabell Pass area Wednesday night and Thursday.”

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at