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Road Crews Hope to Open Richardson Highway by End of Week

By Grace Jang, Investigative Reporter, gjang@ktuu.com
Published On: Feb 03 2014 10:05:00 PM AKST

Road Crews Hope to Open Richardson Hwy by End of Week

VALDEZ -

The road to Valdez is still cut off, but on Monday, it was much closer to re-opening.

More than a week after a series of avalanches buried the Richardson Highway, state Department of Transportation officials say they hope to have the road back open to traffic before the end of the week.

Crews have been working throughout the weekend to clear debris from three separate avalanches that blocked off ten miles of the road.

Just last week, the wall of snow over the roadway was more than a hundred feet high. But in the past few days, crews have shaved more than 30 feet off of it.

DOT officials say the project has been slow-going because they had to not just remove the snow, but find the road.

“It's really been difficult. Thompson Pass has avalanches, we have avalanches across the road, (but) this scale, the crews haven't experienced this scale,” said Steven Potter, the DOT Northern Region manager.

Beyond the scale, it’s the water that’s added to the difficulty of the clearing.

“The damming of the river … made it that much more of a bigger project and harder to get into, to work on,” he said.

“We deal with avalanches that may take us a half day or a day to clean,” Potter said, adding that Richardson avalanche “has taken us a week.

“The contractor estimates he's going to move a couple hundred thousand yards of snow,” he said.

Potter said it will be a few more days before the highway is open to traffic again, but they are aiming to have the road open by Friday.

In the meantime, Potter stressed the area is not open to traffic and remains closed to all crossings.