Construction season ramps up with nearly $1 billion in projects

  • Summer means construction season in Alaska, and contractors have sharpened their pencils to bid on nearly $1 billion worth of work. Many projects have been bid at less than budget as companies compete for work with the private sector in recession. (Photo/Courtesy/Granite Construction Inc.)

Summer 2017 brings $976 million in construction contracts for 128 projects in 45 communities across the state as the season for both tourism and construction gets underway.

The dollars — 90 percent federal with a 10 percent state match — will pay for Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities highway and airport improvements.

Federal monies so far have remained at consistent levels in recent years, said department communications director Meadow Bailey.

The good news for the Alaska Department of Transportation is that many projects are coming in lower than bid estimates.

DOT’s Jill Reese, public information officer for special projects, said competition for projects is intense.

“It’s due to the shift in vertical construction to horizontal,” she said, referring to the decrease in capital spending construction due to the recession currently underway in Alaska. “Firms that normally work on tall buildings are bidding on road projects that they hadn’t in the past,” Reese said.

This allows federal dollars to stretch further.

Summer travelers out of Anchorage heading south get a big break this summer from road construction projects, while the majority of road projects are focused north.

Some of the most involved projects that started June 2 include:

• Dalton Highway MP 362-379 Reconstruction: This is the third in a series of projects to reconstruct 52 miles of the highway south of Deadhorse. This project includes widening, spot repair and resurfacing the highway from Miles 362-379. The construction contract is $32 million, the contractor is Cruz Construction Inc., and the project will be completed in September 2018.

• Haines Highway MP 3.5-25.3 Reconstruction: This is the first in a series of projects to reconstruct the highway from Mile 3.5-12. The construction estimate is $40 million to $50 million, the project will go out to bid this summer, and the project is scheduled for completion at the end of 2018.

• Seward Highway: Dimond to Dowling Reconstruction: This project involves reconstructing the New Seward Highway from four to six lanes between Dimond Boulevard and Dowling Road, improving frontage roads, and Sandlewood Place, including adding pedestrian facilities and bike lanes.

During construction, two new bridges will be built across the highway connecting 76th Avenue to Lore Road. The construction contract is $55.9 million, contractor is QAP, and the project will be substantially complete in fall 2018.

• Sterling Highway, MP 58-79 Rehabilitation: This project will rehabilitate the Sterling Highway from Mile 58-79. Improvements include resurfacing, widening shoulders, adding passing lanes and wildlife viewing structures.

During construction, staff will replace the culvert at the East Fork Moose River with a bridge, and install a pedestrian undercrossing for the Skyline Trail. The construction contract is $54 million, the contractor is Granite Construction, and the project will be complete in October 2018.

North of Anchorage:

On the Glenn Highway, expect repaving from Highland Road to Eklutna in the evening hours from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Be alert to lane restrictions and reduced speeds. Work on 14 miles of road is expected to be finished by August.

Parks Highway from Church Road to Pittman Road undergoes construction beginning June 6 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Between MP 44.5 and 48.8 a two-lane will be expanded into a four-lane divided highway with a new bridge at MP 46.5. This is set to be finished by August.

Parks Highway MP 91.2 to 92; MP 100 to 100.8: DOT is improving the railroad crossings at these points with new overpasses going up over the rail crossings. This is set to be finished by October.

Parks Highway MP 239 to 252: The highway segment leading to Denali National Park includes repaving, and installing new signage and guardrails. Expect delays and watch for the pilot car.

This is the third season after mitigating rock fall hazards by removing loose rocks south of Glitter Gulch. The department is hoping to be finished by July because this is a high traffic area. Expect minor day delays and most work at night.

Elliott Highway MP 107.7 to 120.5: Highway reconstruction between Fox (about 10 miles north of Fairbanks) and Manley Hot Springs involves a realignment to improve sight distances and drainage improvements to reduce icing and overflow.

Richardson Highway MP 24 to 35: Resurfacing has begun on this 11-mile stretch that involves culvert replacements and asphalt grinding. Upon completion, new asphalt will surface this gravel road.

Tok Cutoff MP 75.6: DOT is putting in a replacement bridge over the Slana River. Expected to be complete in October, drivers should be alert to a detour during summer months.

MP 64-67 Taylor Highway: Reconstructed road surfacing by DOT on the three-mile stretch to the Chicken Bridge takes place Monday through Sunday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Expect delays of up to 20 minutes and be alert to the pilot cars. DOT is working on a new bridge over Chicken Creek.

South of Anchorage:

Travelers get a break from construction this summer on the segment from Anchorage to Girdwood. The next project in the planning stages involve the segment from MP 105-107 at Windy Corner. The goal is to take out a dramatic corner for safety issues, Reese said. This has been controversial, according to public testimony.

“Some people think it will be unsightly to take out the rock. But we see it as a safety issue,” Reese said. “This project won’t begin until 2018 at the earliest.”

The Alyeska road that leads from the Seward Highway to Arlberg Road is a minimal project but due to heavy summer traffic, is listed as one to keep in mind. Road structural improvements and guardrail replacements could cause delays.

Also in design is the segment from MP 90-75, Girdwood to Turnagain Pass, which is getting safety improvements in the form of eventually replacing eight bridges. Watch for 15 miles of construction to make more passing areas and straighten dangerous curves.

Sterling Highway MP 114-135: Ending at Ninilchik, this stretch will cause some single-lane traffic and delays throughout June in what DOT hopes is a one-month project to upgrade storm drains, guardrails, signage and repave. Traffic interruption will be minimal.

Kalifornsky Beach Road from MP 16-22 will be seeing more road improvements. On this section is the ear that was damaged in a 2015 earthquake. The plan is to resurface from MP16 (just west of Bridge Access Road) to Milepost 22.2 (just west of Sterling Highway). In addition, improvements will be made to the existing traffic signals at Bridge Access Road and Poppy Lane and new signals will be installed at Ciechanski Road and at Gas Well Road.

MP 79-58 in the Skilak Lake area involves a shoulder-widening project with added passing lanes. DOT also will replace a culvert with a bridge for fish passage purposes.

Naomi Klouda can be reached at naomi.klouda@alaskajournal.com.

Updated: 
06/07/2017 - 1:46pm

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