SALCHA -- Alaska's top elected officials gathered here Tuesday to mark the completion of the longest bridge in Alaska, expressing hope that someday it will be part of a railroad connection to Canada and the Lower 48, though there is no money headed down the tracks anytime soon.
For now, the $187 million bridge connects a gravel road near the Richardson Highway with the vast Tanana Flats south of the Tanana River, where there are no roads. It will be used by the Army and Air Force for year-round access to a million-acre training range.
Built to bear the load of the heaviest high-speed freight trains and to withstand the ice and water pressure of one of Alaska's great rivers, the bridge was finished on time after a three-year construction effort by dozens of companies led by Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. and the Alaska Railroad.
The bridge will be gated and not open to the public, but moose hunters who secure permits from Fort Wainwright will be granted access to cross the one-lane bridge on all-terrain vehicles during the hunting season, Parnell administration officials said. Otherwise, the bridge will be limited to military truck traffic for training exercises.