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Heavily trafficked Fairbanks intersection set to get an innovative update

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 5:50 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The intersection of Airport Way, Steese and Richardson Highways and Gaffney Road is set to see an upgrade next year. The intersection hasn’t been improved since 1978.

“There hasn’t been any improvements to that intersection since 1978 and there’s a lot more traffic now than there was back then and it’s slowing people down and causing a lot of crashes,” said project manager and DOT engineer Carl Heim.

He said that in the last five years the intersection has seen over 100 accidents and wait times at the light continue to increase. The Department of Transportation had considered building an overpass but said that it would take seven to 10 years to secure the over $40 million needed to fund the project. Instead they are planning on using a a Continuous Flow intersection with Median U-turns (CFI-MUT).

“Separating the left turns out of the intersection is what really makes the CFI-MUT work really well with the volumes of traffic that we currently have there,” Heim said.

He said that there has been some concern in the public that the new design will be confusing, but he said that once people use it, it will make sense.

(Alaska Department of Transportation)

“And each one of those segments is very unique and once you are in that roadway, either you are going onto base, or your coming into town or you are leaving, going home in the evening. Those are all going to be pretty segmented roadways and it’s going to make a lot of sense once you are actually driving through it,” Heim said.

Heim said that the CFI-MUT intersections will cost far less, “Less than $15 million is what we were looking at, so you get the same improvement level, the same level of service for a third the cost.”

The DOT has made a website to help the public understand the intersection as well as leave comments.

“That’s where all the online videos and content is, you can either email me or you can email the HDR staff, any of us are willing to take comments and answer questions at any time for any community member,” Heim said.

The plans are expected to be finalized this year and construction is set to begin next summer. The project will take two seasons to finish with completion expected in the fall of 2023. Heim said that they will most likely do the work off of the road in 2022 and then in 2023 rebuild the old intersection. He said there may be some brief closures on parts of the road, but that the intersection will stay open throughout the project.

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