Dalton Highway Closed South Of Deadhorse

Dalton Highway on Monday morning. (Credit Alaska DOT)
Dalton Highway on Monday morning. (Credit Alaska DOT)

The far northern end of the Dalton Highway will remain closed until Tuesday morning.

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The section south of Deadhorse, was also closed for two days last week as overflow from the Sag River continues to impact the only road supply route for North Slope oil fields.

The Dalton closed between mileposts 378 and 413 Sunday night, as blizzard conditions similar to those that shut it down last week, again hampered efforts to channel water off the highway. State crews are using heavy equipment to move snow and build berms along the road where it traverses a wide plain along the Sag River.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey says the operation is compromised when the weather goes bad.

“When we have storms come in, we’re not able to keep up with the poor weather and the water,” she said.

State road crews have been battling overflow from the Sag River for weeks, a situation that’s been an issue in the past, but is especially bad this year.

“The water is so high right now,” Bailey said. “We have pictures, actually, where you can see delineators which are usually 5 feet above the ground.”

“In some places they are up to the water level and in some places you can see about a foot, but what that really means is you’ve got 4 feet of water just over the road.”

Traffic so far north on the Dalton Highway is mostly oil industry related, including a constant train of tractor trailers ferrying supplies and equipment. Nance Larsen, a spokeswoman for trucking contractor Carlisle, says the stoppage is affecting projects her company’s trucks supply.

“Safety is really the first order of business, so that’s where our focus is right now, is making sure that our drivers are operating safely and under safe conditions,” she said.

Larsen says Carlisle has not halted shipments up the Dalton, but operations have been altered because of the closure near the northern end.

“We are moving freight to and from points that we know we can safely do so, and putting cargo in place so that when the road is passable that we can continue to move freight farther up the road when it’s available,” she said.

Larsen says Carlisle appreciates state efforts to keep the road open. The DOT’s Bailey says hydrologists are trying to figure out what’s causing the overflow problem to be so bad right now, creating what she describes as a very unique situation.

“We very rarely close the Dalton Highway,” Bailey said. “It’s happened once this winter before this, and once two or three years ago.”

The state hopes to get the road passable again Tuesday. Major construction work scheduled to begin this summer will raise impacted portions of the highway up to 7 feet, and install culverts.