Denali Highway getting plowed, but not quite ready for smooth travel

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Anyone planning to drive the Denali Highway in the next week better have a vehicle with a good suspension.

''It's rough,'' said Scott Mayo, foreman at the state Department of Transportation maintenance station in Cantwell. ''It's full of potholes. The farther away from Cantwell you get, the worse the road gets.''

After a month of plowing snow and ripping up ice that accumulated during the past six months, DOT crews were expecting to finish clearing the 135-mile gravel road this week. But it will take another two weeks before the road, which cuts through the middle of the Alaska Range and connects the Parks and Richardson highways, is in decent shape for driving, Mayo said.

The Denali Highway is one of two major roadways in Alaska -- along with the Taylor Highway from Tetlin to Eagle -- that is not maintained during the winter and is usually the last road in the state to open. The Taylor Highway was opened last month.

Most of the road traffic at this time of year comes from snowmachiners trying to wring out the last drops of winter on the snow-covered tundra and Alaska Range foothills. Last year there were still people snowmachining on Maclaren Summit on Memorial Day weekend, he said.

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