Opening of Tanana road pushed back due to weather

FAIRBANKS — This summer’s rainy weather has further delayed the opening of a new road to connect a bush community to Alaska’s highway network.

Alaska Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner the 20-mile road to the Yukon River near the village of Tanana is expected to be complete by Sept. 1.

The single-lane gravel road extends from outside Manley Hot Springs to the banks of the Yukon. Bailey said Cruz Construction still needs to complete two more miles of road as well as install culverts, erosion control, a parking area and signs. Construction on the road, which began in 2014, had originally been scheduled to end in December. Wet weather and last summer’s wildfires pushed back the completion date first until this earlier this summer and most recently until September.

The rainy conditions present a safety concern for construction crews, Bailey said.

“Everything has to happen more slowly. This is a 15-foot pioneer road that is being traversed by heavy construction equipment carrying heavy loads,” Bailey said in an email.

The initial project delay had increased the estimated project cost from $11 million to $13.5 million. Bailey said the latest delay shouldn’t impact the cost. The road was built to reduce construction costs in Tanana and as part of a larger project to build roadways west across Alaska.

As construction began on the road two years ago, Tanana resident Patrick Moore said others in the community of about 250 people hadn’t supported the project and were unsure of what kind of impact it would have. Now that the road is partly operational, Moore said he’s seen people on both sides of the issue using the road.

“The naysayers were the first ones over it,” he said. “The ones who were against the road.”

Residents have been using the road for the last two winters by building an ice road on the river to connect with the new road, Moore said.

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