The purpose of the project is to relieve congestion and improve safety on the Glenn Highway near Eagle River. This will be accomplished by building a new bridge with increased capacity, adding lanes, widening shoulders, improving highway on- and off-ramps, and building redundancy into the highway system with a new southbound frontage road.
Population growth in the Mat-Su Valley and the Chugiak-Eagle River area has contributed to steadily worsening congestion on the Glenn Highway, especially during peak travel hours. Traffic modeling used for the Municipality of Anchorage’s (MOA) 2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan predicts that traffic volumes on the Glenn Highway will double by 2035. An unimproved highway would not have the capacity to absorb the predicted traffic increase, resulting in longer commutes, increased driver frustration, and more frequent crashes.
The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is able to construct frontage roads using the old highway and bridge alignments. The east and west frontage roads will provide alternate driving routes if there is a major crash on the Glenn Highway or damage to the Glenn Highway from earthquakes or other natural disasters.
Bridges were built to seismic standards. Also, the damaged girders on the Artillery Road Bridge were repaired during the 2020 construction season.
What improvements are part of the project?
This is a two-phase project; the first phase of construction has been completed.
Phase 1 of the project included:
Adding an additional northbound lane to the Glenn Highway between the Hiland Drive and Artillery Road interchanges. The project will allow for a possible future high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane.
Realigning the highway to reduce the northbound highway grade of the steep downhill approaching the Eagle River Bridge (sometimes referred to as “Brake Light Hill”).
Constructing a new northbound bridge over Eagle River to accommodate the additional lane.
Constructing a two-way frontage road east of the mainline from the Hiland Drive to Artillery Road interchange.
Eliminating the recurrent highway glaciation/icing problem on the mainline highway south of the river.
Phase 2 of the project will:
Add an additional southbound lane to the Glenn Highway between the Artillery Road and Hiland Drive interchanges. The project will allow for a possible future HOV lane.
Realign the highway to reduce the southbound highway grade south of Eagle River Bridge.
Construct a new southbound bridge over Eagle River to accommodate the additional lane.
Construct a frontage road west of the mainline from the Artillery Road to Hiland Drive interchange. This west side frontage road will be two-way from Artillery Road to the Eagle River Bridge and will be one-way from the Eagle River Bridge to Hiland Road interchange.
What is the current project status?
Phase 1 northbound work was completed in 2015. Phase 2 southbound started construction in 2019 and was opened in fall 2020. We expect to complete some landscaping and adjustments to the southbound bridge later in 2021.
Will construction impact my commute?
Yes. During 2021 construction season short-term lane closures will take place.
Why was the project put on hold, and when was funding made available for the southbound improvements?
This project was seen as a priority for the state due to the traffic and congestion. To enable the northbound improvement work to begin quickly, state funding was designated for the entire project. In 2016, however, the Alaska economic downturn strained state budgets, and the southbound construction was put on hold. In 2018, with some improvement in state revenues and economic conditions, bond money previously approved by voters was allocated to the project.
What about the Artillery Road intersection?
MOA is currently in the planning and design phase for the Eagle River Traffic Mitigation project. DOT&PF is coordinating with the MOA so that any changes to the highway approach to Artillery Road will not preclude changes to the intersection proposed by the MOA.
Did adding new bridge structures increase the chance of the Eagle River flooding?
No. New bridge piers were constructed near the banks of the Eagle River. The placement does not increase the potential for flooding within the existing floodplain.
Will the speed limit through the construction zone be lowered? Why?
Yes, the speed limit will be lowered for safety reasons to 45 MPH in the work zone. This is to protect the traveling public because the road will be necked down with narrower shoulders and lane shifts. Slowing the speed will also help protect the workers on-site because construction equipment will be closer to the roadway than typical.