Sinkhole along busy Anchorage road stalls Midtown drivers

A sinkhole opened up near the intersection of Northern Lights and UAA Drive in Anchorage, Alaska on Dec. 11, 2019. (Photo by Joey Mendolia)

One of Anchorage’s main roadways will likely be closed for several days because of a substantial sinkhole.

Originally described as “a very large pothole” in a Wednesday morning public release from the Anchorage Police Department, the manhole-sized crater opened up in the westbound lanes of Northern Lights Boulevard just past UAA Drive.

The closure is snarling traffic in one of the most congested areas of the city.

Road crews are currently working to fix the problem.

Traffic was backed up after a sinkhole opened up near the intersection of Northern Lights and UAA Drive. (Photo by Joey Mendolia)


“They’re going to get it back open as soon as they can, they know what a critical road it is,” said Chelsea Ward-Waller, a public information officer for the municipality’s Project Management and Engineering Department.

At this point, she said, the closure is expected to last “at least through the weekend.”

Maintenance workers were trying to patch the hole overnight on Wednesday when they saw their asphalt disappearing, and realized they were dealing with a more significant issue. Beneath Northern Lights is a pipe that directs the flow of a nearby creek under the roadway.

A sinkhole opened up near the intersection of Northern Lights and UAA Drive in Anchorage, Alaska on December 11, 2019. (Photo by Joey Mendolia)


“The pipe is corroded and collapsing, causing a partial road failure,” Ward-Waller said. “They pretty immediately closed down Northern Lights west-bound.”

The hole is just north of where another sinkhole closed a section of Providence Drive for months over the summer. According to Ward-Waller, the infrastructure problems affecting both road failures appear to be related.

“The culverts, the metal pipes underneath the road there, were installed nearly at the same time, 1981,” she said of Northern Lights. Also in that year, the same 60-inch pipe was put under Providence Drive, and in both cases the equipment has likely reached the end of its life-cycle.

Drivers are encouraged to find another route transiting westward along Northern Lights.

In the meantime, drivers are encouraged to find another route and be aware of road updates.