DOT&PF Reopens Portage Glacier Highway in Alaska

Wed June 24, 2009 - West Edition

The Portage Glacier Highway reopened two lanes of traffic April 24 after crews removed debris from an April 11 rock slide, according to Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) officials.

The rock slide blocked Portage Glacier Highway by spilling tons of rock and debris onto the road, severely hampering access to Whittier.

The April 11 rock slide left a 300-ft. (91 m) wide pile of rubble as high as 30 ft. (9.1 m) on the road.

DOT&PF officals said that work crews mobilized drilling rigs to the top of a slope above Portage Glacier Highway and began drilling and blasting a rock slab that posed a potential safety hazard.

“Once the drill rigs are established on top of the slope, air and water supply can be established for the operations,” said Frank Richards, DOT&PF’s Deputy Commissioner of Highways and Public Facilities. “When everything is in place, the contractor will drill and blast 24 hours a day.”

The blast brought down about 13,000 cu. yds. (9,940 cu m) of rock and debris.

“We’re really happy to reestablish highway and tunnel access to Whittier”, said Gordon Keith, DOT&PF’s central regional director. “We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding while we safely worked through this dangerous situation.”