Mitchell Expressway project begins phase two

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska The closure of the Mitchell Expressway is reversing, with the North bound lane being closed starting tonight.

Residents woke up to a pleasant surprise, the Mitchell Expressway was open. Unfortunately, this will be short lived. Starting at 7 pm tonight, phase two of construction will start. On the 18th, locals will not be able to travel on the Mitchell Expressway heading towards the Parks Highway.

Alaska Department of Transportation Spokesperson Caitlin Frye says the road has not been paved since the road was originally constructed in the late 1980's into the early 1990's. That means half of the Mitchell expressway is as much at 30 years older in some locations.

"The old pavement had reached the end of its life-cycle, which basically means that our maintenance crews were spending more and more time patching it," said Caitlin Frye. "It was time, in order to save on long term maintenance costs, time to repave the express way."

Just like phase one, phase two of the Mitchell construction will cause traffic delays. Travelers heading from North Pole to Fairbanks will not be able to access the Mitchell. Instead, the detour sees them following the Steese until they reach the Airport Way intersection. DOT is asking the public to plan for delays, and encourages people to leave earlier than normal.

"The beginning of these closures is always the most difficult," stated Caitlin Frye. "Our Traffic and Safety Engineers are going to be monitoring all those intersections; the Airport Way and Steese as well as other intersections in the detour route. They will be making adjustments to the signal time in that first week to try to get traffic flowing more smoothly."

The repaving should take about as long as it did the other side of the road. Traveler should expect traffic to be detoured until mid to late July. According to a DOT press release, the University Avenue, Peger Road, and Lathrop Street intersections will remain open throughout the day, but they are scheduled to close in mid-July at night.

The Mitchell project has more phases secluded throughout the summer. On top of repaving, the Mitchell will get new LED lighting, guard rail upgrade and new road signs. Some ramps leading to the expressway will also see improvements. In addition, all nine bridges that run along the Mitchell Expressway will have water-proofing membranes installed to extend their life. Despite the additional work, Caitlin Frye says after the north and south bound lanes will remain open after phase two is complete. The overall Mitchell project is expected to last throughout the summer.