As Alaska shifts from winter to construction season, state officials are preparing to scale up work on the Seward Highway that will temporarily alter its route through a heavily trafficked part of South Anchorage.
The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities says the project will expand and improve a roughly 1.5-mile north-south stretch of the highway between Dimond Boulevard and Dowling Road.
Department spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy said Friday that workers with Quality Asphalt Paving, which is building the project, were in preliminary phases of an accelerated schedule meant to minimize disruptions.
"The contractor has agreed to do double-shifting around the clock," McCarthy said. "It is really driven by the traffic in the area."
The $55.9 million project, roughly 90 percent covered by federal funds, will widen the highway to three lanes in each direction as well as improve its interchanges with Dimond and Dowling. A new overpass bridge will allow East 76th Avenue and Lore Road, currently separated by the highway, to be linked beneath it.
In addition, the project will extend Sandlewood Place north from its dead end east of the highway to connect with Lore. It will also add sidewalks and bike lanes to the highway's frontage roads to the east and west, Brayton and Homer drives, as well as a sidewalk along Sandlewood's west side.
McCarthy said road crews were establishing access to businesses in the area before closing the frontage roads to accommodate the diverted highway traffic. The expansion of Sandlewood to Lore is being done as part of the initial highway diversions.
"We're doing that first — we're establishing access, and then we'll shift mainline access," McCarthy said. "Homer Drive they will shut down at the end of March, and Brayton Drive they will shut down at the beginning of April."
The highway overpass bridge should be finished by this fall, McCarthy said. Work on connecting East 76th and Lore, along with the bike path and sidewalk improvements, is slated for next year with completion by late 2018.
The Seward Highway project comes as DOTPF continues work on expanding the Glenn Highway's interchange with Muldoon Road. The department said on Facebook that road crews were clearing snow in that area, in preparation for the placement of bridge girders later this month which will cause overnight lane closures on the Glenn between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.
The Seward Highway project is part of a master plan for improvements along the Seward from 36th Avenue south to Rabbit Creek, McCarthy said. The next phase of that work, between Dimond and O'Malley roads, is still in the planning stages.
The state will be posting Seward Highway closure updates on a road-status website for the current project. A public open house on its details will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, in the Dimond Center Hotel at 700 E. Dimond Blvd.