New bridge dedicated to Alaska Native Brotherhood

Glass-smooth Mendenhall River, Mendenhall Glacier, and the Juneau Icefield form the backdrop for one of the bronze medallions designed by Roy Peratovich Jr. Tlingit moieties Eagle and Raven stand upon a rock that represents the Alaska Native Brotherhood. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)
Glass-smooth Mendenhall River, Mendenhall Glacier, and the Juneau Icefield form the backdrop for one of the bronze medallions designed by Roy Peratovich Jr. Tlingit moieties Eagle and Raven stand upon a rock that represents the Alaska Native Brotherhood. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

State transportation officials and Juneau Native leaders dedicated a new bridge crossing the Mendenhall River as the Brotherhood Bridge Saturday.

The new, wider structure was constructed for $25 million and it was designed to accommodate Glacier Highway’s future traffic needs. The bridge is the fifth crossing of the river at that location, and it replaces the former Brotherhood Bridge that was constructed in 1965 and dismantled last year.

A bright, rising sun shone on Saturday morning’s dedication, which featured a procession of Native leaders and comments from Roy Peratovich Jr., designer of the original Brotherhood Bridge and the ten bronze medallions that were installed along the hand railing of the old bridge.

The first Brotherhood Bridge was dedicated to honor and commemorate the Alaska Native Brotherhood, created in 1912, that advocated for civil rights for Alaska Natives.

After it was built, Lt. Governor Byron Mallott said he made a particular effort to visit it when he traveled to Juneau because of what it meant to Alaska Natives and to all people of Alaska.

Roy Peratovich Jr. (from left at front), Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand President Johanna Dybdahl, and Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand President Sasha Soboleff lead the procession to the new Brotherhood Bridge that includes Peratovich’s family and transportation officials. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)
Roy Peratovich Jr. (from left at front), Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand President Johanna Dybdahl, and Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand President Sasha Soboleff lead the procession to the new Brotherhood Bridge that includes Peratovich’s family and transportation officials. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

“It occurred at a time that was very different from today,” Mallott said. “A time when Alaska’s peoples were still coming together.”

Roy Peratovich Jr., son of Alaskan civil rights pioneer Elizabeth Peratovich, elicited a laugh from the audience when he mentioned that the former bridge was designed with drafting tables and slide rules.

“Maybe you don’t know what that is,” Peratrovich joked. “But it lasted 50 years. We want you to last 75.”

As the first registered Native civil engineer in Alaska, Peratrovich said the profession continues in his family. He said his grandson is designing rocketships for Space-X.

“We owe you a great debt of thank you, Roy, for your insight , for bringing this particular bridge to serve Juneau,” said Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand President Sasha Soboleff.

“But it brings to mind one of the other things that we all work for, and that is the improvement in the quality of our life.”

The new four-lane Brotherhood Bridge features the restored bronze medallions that were recovered from the old two-lane bridge, and large concrete replicas that have been installed on the abutments.

Orion Marine Contractors was the general contractor for the project with construction getting underway in April 2014. They constructed the upstream span of two lanes while traffic continued on the old bridge. Traffic was diverted to the new span as the old bridge was being dismantled and replaced with another span that was two lanes wide. The bridge includes a 6-foot wide sidewalk on the upstream side, and underpasses at both ends for pedestrians and cyclists.

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Matt Miller is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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