Kalifornsky Beach Road reopened to two-way traffic Wednesday morning.
“They got in there, cut the pavement up, brought material in, filled the holes and leveled it out. Now, it will be gravel, of course, until the summer, because we can’t pave in the wintertime — it would not set. But it is open to two-way traffic,” said Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy.
DOT will continue to monitor the area, especially during spring breakup as the ground starts to thaw.
“We certainly will monitor the area. I don’t think it will become a mess but you can always have shifting, even with any road. And that’s why they brought in the compactors and things like that to really shore up and tighten up that area, but they’ll of course keep an eye on it and if any additional material needs to be brought in, they will do that,” McCarthy said.
The paving project should be quick, as well.
We were fortunate that was a short section so it will probably be a very straightforward project, just putting together a permanent repair,” she said.
DOT is asking drivers to reduce their speed and use caution as they drive over that section of road.
By Jenny Neyman
Though one lane of Kalifornsky Beach Road was still open to traffic Sunday afternoon, many drivers heading between Kenai and Kasilof stopped of their own volition. They wanted to see the gaping cracks in the pavement that occurred when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska around 1:30 that morning.
“Yeah, we had to come out here and check it out,” said James Benson, of Soldotna.
He and his daughter, Ali, were part of the steady stream of people marveling at the shattered road. A crack runs about 150 feet through the northbound lane, spidering into fissures that extend laterally down into the snowy marshland off the side of the road. The force of the quake split the road near its center, and the shoulder side of the northbound lane sloughed away and sank up to a foot and a half. The fissures measure as little as inches across to more than a foot wide, with depths up to about 10 feet.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities closed the northbound lane and marked the area with caution signs and cones Sunday morning. Spokesperson Shannon McCarthy said DOT planned to send a work crew Monday morning.
“We’re going to have our maintenance crews get in there and make a temporary fix tomorrow so we can open it to two-lane traffic. What they’ll do is they’ll grind up the broken-up pavement and they’ll bring in D1, which is a type of gravel, and smooth it out so that both lanes are usable,” McCarthy said.
Workers will repave the road after the weather warms up this summer. During the temporary repairs, one lane of traffic will remain open as much as possible.
On Sunday, drivers were getting through the one-lane section without the help of flaggers, though most stopped on the shoulder of the road anyway to take a closer look. Cameraphones were at the ready to snap pictures of the cracks, and a drone camera buzzed overhead. Small talk was all on the same subject — the earthquake.
Deb Hartley, of Soldotna, had just finished walking the family dog when her husband, Rick, shouted to her as the shaking started.
“I just walked in the house and all of a sudden he goes, grab the TV because it hit not 30 seconds after. I’ve got the dog in one hand and I’m holding the TV. But we didn’t lose anything. There was no damage to the house, so it was great,” she said.
10-year-old Ali Benson was posing for pictures for her dad to send to her grandmother. “This is what Alaskans do for fun,” James Benson said.
Ali was marking the occasion by taking home a few keepsakes, clutching a grimy chunk of asphalt under each arm, one with bits of yellow centerline paint still showing.
“It’s the road,” Ali said.
“Souvenir from her first earthquake she remembers,” Benson said.
Ali slept through half the earthquake until her dad woke her up.
“I grabbed her and we just headed for the front door, kind of half in, half out of the house,” he said.
James remembers being in Fairbanks when a magnitude 7.9 quake jolted Interior Alaska in November 2002.
“It was almost fun, but this one last night was violent. Our house was moving 3 feet. We were bouncing going down the hall,” he said.
McCarthy said the damage to K-Beach Road is similar to the cracking that occurred on the Richardson and Glenn highways in the 2002 quake.
“Our roads, because they’re made to be stiff, when an earthquake comes along they’re like any other structure, they can be susceptible to movement. It can happen on literally any road, if you have a big enough quake with enough movement, it can occur almost anywhere,” she said.
ADOT crews were busy throughout the night checking bridges on the Kenai Peninsula, in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna area, and again Sunday during the light of day.
“They’re looking for anything unusual, anything that happened that’s new that would indicate a problem,” McCarthy said. “Bridges are engineered specifically to take this kind of abuse from an earthquake but we want to let people know that we do inspect within 24 hours of an event.”
McCarthy said that all bridges passed inspection.