Eklutna River Bridge to be closed

Expected to reopen to pedestrians, bikes in June


Published:

A support beam on the Eklutna River Bridge shows rust in this photo from earlier this month.

Star photo by Matt Tunseth

The Eklutna River Bridge will be closed to all traffic as of Tuesday, May 15.

The Municipality of Anchorage made the announcement April 27, citing several problems with the bridge that included rusted gusset plates, cracked welds and significant rust.

The Muni is hoping to reopen the bridge to pedestrian and bicycle traffic by June 1, said Director of Public Works Ron Thompson on Monday, May 7.

Thompson said the Muni decided to close the deteriorating structure located just north of the Thunderbird Falls trailhead parking lot after inspecting the bridge’s guardrails.

“The railings were not up to any kind of safety standard,” he said. “All the supports for that are in very bad shape.”

If a car were to hit the guardrail, Thompson said, it would plummet into the Eklutna River below.

“The guardrails on that bridge could not handle a car,” he said. “It would not hold anything.”

Before being reopened, a 54-inch guardrail will be erected to protect pedestrians and cyclists, Thompson said.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities imposed weight restrictions on the bridge that prohibit commercial traffic after conducting an inspection in September 2010.

The Chugiak/Birchwood/Eagle River Rural Road Service Area Board, which recommended closing the bridge five months ago, has been seeking state money for repairs since the Muni assumed ownership in 1985.

The wait might be over.

Included in the 27th Legislature’s capital budget was $14 million for the Eklutna Bridge. If the project avoids a veto from Gov. Sean Parnell, Thompson said it should be enough for a new bridge. However, Thompson did not have an up-to-date estimate of the project’s cost.

The state owned the bridge from when it was built in 1935 until 1978, when Eklutna Inc. purchased it for $1. Eklutna Inc. sold it to the Muni seven years later for the same price.

A center arch was added in 1950, and it was widened from one to two lanes two years later. Today, the bridge can support half the weight it could when first constructed.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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