The northern portion of the gravel Dalton Highway leading to the North Slope oil fields will reopen Friday morning after sustaining heavy flood damage during spring breakup north of the Brooks Range, a state official said.
The scheduled 8 a.m. opening will come after 2 1/2 weeks of closure caused by unprecedented spring melting and flooding from the ice-choked Sagavanirktok River.
The road, a draw for tourists seeking to reach the Arctic Ocean and trucks delivering cargo to some of the nation's biggest oil fields, won't be its old self. Travel will be slow starting at Mile 392 as repair work continues, with flaggers directing traffic along a couple of single-lane stretches.
The road was closed for 80 miles, though the damage occurred along the last 25 miles, not far from the Arctic Ocean and Prudhoe Bay. State road crews and contractors tackled the flood-battered areas from both ends, hauling in truckloads of rock and dirt to replace washed-out sections or creating diversion routes when needed.
The worst damage occurred along the road's last two miles, from Mile 412 to 414, exposing ice lenses and permafrost beneath the road. Waterlogged material under that section of the road has been removed and will need to be replaced with solid rocks and dirt, said Meadow Bailey, public information officer with the Transportation Department.
The total bill for the emergency repairs is expected to reach $15.5 million. "We believe it will all be reimbursable by the Federal Highway Administration," she said.
The state also plans to spend at least $27 million to raise the roadbed from Mile 391, as part of projects planned to start this summer before the flooding occurred.