Taylor Highway reopened for travel to Eagle

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Taylor Highway, a gravel road linking the Yukon River village of Eagle with the rest of Alaska, was opened Wednesday and Archie Reeves was one of the first to take advantage.

Reeves barely recognized his new pickup truck when he pulled into Eagle at the end of the road.

''It was a kind of a dull red color. Now it's two-tone -- mud and red,'' Reeves said Thursday. ''I've got half the Taylor stuck to it.''

Reeves had flown to Fairbanks a week ago to pick up the truck he bought in December and stored at a friend's house for the winter.

''I brought in a six-month supply of groceries and a thousand pounds of cement for a friend,'' said Reeves, who won't make another trip to town until late September or early October if he can help it. ''I'm set now.''

The road was in generally good shape, he said.

''It was decent except American Summit,'' Reeves said, referring to the 3,420-foot mountain about 20 miles from Eagle known for its high winds. ''A lot of snow has blown in up there.''

It took state crews from Tok and Eagle almost a month to clear the 160-mile road. They started from Tok on March 12 and the Eagle crew began work a week later.

''We were hoping for the second week of April and we made it,'' said Tok area DOT manager Jim Fehrenbacher.

The Taylor Highway is one of two major roadways in Alaska not maintained by the state in winter and which must be reopened each spring.

The other is the Denali Highway between Paxson and Cantwell.

Both are major arteries for visiting tourists in the summer while serving as snowmachine trails in winter.

Crews at Cantwell began clearing the Denali Highway on Tuesday and don't expect to have that road open until sometime in mid-May.

Even though the Taylor Highway road is officially open, Fehrenbacher doesn't recommend traveling it unless necessary. It snowed six inches this week and wind gusts have caused drifting in high spots.

''The potential is there to get stranded,'' Fehrenbacher told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''It's what I call passable but with a long hesitation.

''People need to plan on driving a mountain road in Alaska if they're going to drive it,'' he said. ''Bring cold weather gear and chains.''

The 79-mile Top of the World Highway, which cuts off the Taylor Highway at Mile 96 and leads to Dawson City, will not be opened until mid-May because the ice bridge across the Yukon River to Dawson City is not passable.

''We're going to plow the road up to a mile from the (Canada) border and leave a plug in until the ferry comes in mid-May,'' Fehrenbacher said, referring to the vessel that moves vehicles to and from Dawson City.

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