Alaska’s post-quake road re­pairs amaze Face­book

In just 4 days, ma­jor work done to off-ramp

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Kristin Lam USA TO­DAY

Ma­jor road re­pairs take more than just a few days.

Un­less you’re the Alaska Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Pub­lic Fa­cil­i­ties.

A week af­ter a ma­jor earth­quake rat­tled Alaska, a mag­ni­tude-7.0 tre­mor that’s been fol­lowed by more than 3,000 af­ter­shocks, the state’s trans­porta­tion depart­ment has be­come the envy of a na­tion for the speed of its work – even if its re­pairs aren’t per­ma­nent.

Depart­ment spokesper­son Shan­non McCarthy told USA TO­DAY that crews re­paired most ma­jor road dam­age within four days – with be­fore and af­ter pho­tos of an off-ramp near Ted Stevens An­chor­age In­ter­na­tional Air­port emerg­ing as a so­cial me­dia sen­sa­tion.

The pho­tos, shared on Face­book by Alaska Tour & Travel, had gar­nered 1,100 com­ments and been shared more than 17,000 times as of Thurs­day night.

“Wow!! Other states could cer­tainly learn from this. Way to go Alaska!!” one per­son wrote.

“That is un­be­liev­ably awe­some! Hooray for the Alaskan peo­ple! Wish re­pairs went that fast in Texas,” an­other Face­book user said.

“It would take Cal­i­for­nia years to get this done,” an­other posted.

The DOT’s work, though, isn’t done. The re­pairs com­pleted since the Nov. 30 earth­quake, in un­fa­vor­able win­ter con­di­tions, are tem­po­rary solutions to avoid tran­sit com­pli­ca­tions, and crews will redo the ma­jor­ity of their work in the sum­mer to en­sure long-term sus­tain­abil­ity, McCarthy said.

It took about 72 hours of around-the­clock work to re­store that north­bound off-ramp near the air­port, McCarthy said. A to­tal of 14 peo­ple worked the pro­ject: seven la­bor­ers, five truck drivers and two pro­ject en­gi­neers. It was the first ramp that the depart­ment be­gan re­con­struct­ing, with work­ers on-site just three hours af­ter the quake.

Crews faced freez­ing rain, light snow, high winds and tem­per­a­tures that dropped to the high 20s. Usu­ally, Alaska only does con­struc­tion from May through Septem­ber when con­di­tions are more fa­vor­able for long-last­ing re­pairs. The big­gest chal­lenges, McCarthy said, lay in the asphalt and frozen soil.

No asphalt plants run dur­ing non­peak months be­cause cold tem­per­a­tures so­lid­ify the oil while rain and snow add mois­ture. So, in­stead, a depart­ment worker called a con­trac­tor to start re­heat­ing asphalt two hours af­ter the earth­quake, McCarthy said.

Be­cause ar­eas of the road sunk and cracked apart, work­ers had to grind up the dam­aged asphalt, re­move bad ma­te­rial, bring new ma­te­rial and com­pact the frozen soil. Then they paved and painted the off-ramp.

It re­opened at 1:30 a.m. Tues­day, with the south­bound exit for the air­port open­ing an hour or two later.

In the sum­mer, McCarthy said con­struc­tion crews would typ­i­cally need a full two months for a sim­i­lar pro­ject.

“Since Fri­day’s earth­quake, DOT&PF em­ploy­ees and Alaska con­trac­tors have worked tire­lessly to re-es­tab­lish es­sen­tial trans­porta­tion links,” Gov. Mike Dun­leavy said in a state­ment. “Re­gard­less of the chal­lenges, they have com­mit­ted to finding solutions in record time.”

Emer­gency dec­la­ra­tions from the pres­i­dent and the gover­nor, McCarthy said, ex­pe­dited re­pairs. Sup­port from the Fed­eral High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion also helped, as well as plan­ning con­scious of how Alaska gets more earth­quakes than any other state.

“We’re all re­ally pleased that we were all able to come to­gether and an­tic­i­pate what our chal­lenges were early on dur­ing the dis­as­ter,” McCarthy said. “Within that first hour or two, we were re­ally an­tic­i­pat­ing what we were go­ing to need in five days.”

The depart­ment is con­tin­u­ing re­pairs to smaller dam­aged spots, in­clud­ing rup­tures that shut down a lane. Through­out the win­ter, it will also mon­i­tor tem­po­rary re­pairs.

“Re­gard­less of the chal­lenges, they have com­mit­ted to finding solutions in record time.”

Mike Dun­leavy, gover­nor of Alaska

Marty Thur­man, of Gran­ite Con­struc­tion, in­spects a crack in the road near the air­port in An­chor­age, Alaska, on Nov. 30. The air­port was open and op­er­at­ing at re­duced ca­pac­ity, with de­layed flights. The road has been fixed, al­beit only tem­po­rar­ily.

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