Construction Report: Mitchell Expressway reopening delayed near Geist

FAIRBANKS, Alaska While part of expressway is opening Tuesday morning, University to Geist will remain closed until August 2019.

According to DOT Spokesperson Caitlin Frye, crew members were removing asphalt from the bridge when the damage was found. Crew members were originally planning on adding a waterproofing membrane, but after the damage was found, Alaska DOT's bridge team from Juneau was flown in to evaluate the structure. The team advised that more work on the bridge was needed. (Image Courtesy of Alaska DOT)

The Mitchell Expressway was supposed to completely reopen later on this month, but unexpected difficulties is extending closures in one area. 7 am on Tuesday morning, the Mitchell Expressway will open from the Richardson Highway to University Avenue. The expressway from University Avenue to Geist Road will remain closed. The extended closure time is due to damage found on the Chena River Bridge heading towards the Parks Highway.

According to DOT Spokesperson Caitlin Frye, crew members were removing asphalt from the bridge when the damage was found. Crew members were originally planning on adding a waterproofing membrane, but after the damage was found, Alaska DOT's bridge team from Juneau was flown in to evaluate the structure. The team advised that more work on the bridge was needed.

"The structure of the bridge is fine," said Spokesperson Frye. "Structurally, it's in great shape, but in order to extend the life of the bridge, we really need to do these repairs. What we're trying to hold off on is a full bridge replacement."

The work crews are doing now is reinforcement on the piers where it meets the bridge.

The Parks-bound Chena River Bridge is the oldest bridge on the expressway itself. Frye says it was originally built in 1975. The other bridge over the Chena River heading the opposite way was built 20 years later. Work on the bridge is expected to continue for, at minimum, another few weeks. If they had to replace the entire bridge, Frye says it would mostly likely take two full construction seasons. Pedestrians wishing to cross the bridge will be escorted either on foot or by truck as the project continues.

Those driving from North Pole will be able to access the Mitchell, but all detours from University to Geist will remain in effect.