Providence Drive closes for six weeks to repair Chester Creek culverts

The Municipality of Anchorage has closed Providence Drive for six weeks to replace the rusted culverts in Chester Creek.

Chester Creek runs under Providence Drive in the area between UAA Drive and Spirit Drive. This is the only area affected by the road closure.

The road closure affects drivers, emergency vehicles and foot traffic. Photo by Jason Herr.

The culverts in the creek allow water to flow under Providence Drive. These particular culverts are vital to the creek because it is an anadromous stream, which means salmon need to swim upstream to spawn.

In March, one of the two steel culverts in Chester Creek collapsed. This caused a sinkhole in the road that led to immediate emergency repairs. However, the repairs were not intended to be a permanent solution, according to the Providence Drive FAQ.

The old culverts were built in 1981, nearly 40 years ago. They are 6-foot wide steel tunnels, now collapsing from rust and corrosion. The Municipality of Anchorage decided that the culverts must be replaced with new ones as soon as possible, according to the official Providence Drive closure webpage.

Coordinating the expedited replacement of the culverts required cooperation and planning between the Department of Fish and Game, the Municipality of Anchorage and the University of Alaska. Projects this ambitious usually take two years to complete the proper permits and blueprints, according to the official Municipality of Anchorage Providence Drive closure webpage.

Six months after the initial collapse in March, the Municipality is now installing the new culverts. They anticipate that this road closure will only last six weeks, according to the Providence Drive FAQ.

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While it is undetermined if the November 2018 earthquake contributed to the culvert damages, the new culverts have been designed with potential natural disasters in mind, making them more durable than the previous ones. They are 20-foot wide concrete culverts, designed to resist seismic damage and rust, according to the Providence Drive FAQ.

UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, along with Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, released a video statement on Aug. 28 about the Providence Drive closure. The video discussed the benefits of the road closure and culvert installation. The increased width of the new culverts will make it easier for salmon to spawn upstream, according to the video.

“Alaska is a place I’ve learned people work together to get things done,” Chancellor Sandeen said in the YouTube video, uploaded to the UAAnchorage channel. “If we dealt with a 7.1 earthquake, we can certainly deal with a road closure for six weeks.”

Flyers created by the Municipality of Anchorage were given out at Campus Kickoff regarding the road closures. Graphic courtesy of the Municipality of Anchorage.

Detours on Providence Drive are in effect for pedestrians, buses and cars. The posted signs must be followed for traffic redirections. The sidewalk along Providence Drive is diverted as well.

The People Mover has diverted routes 10 and 55 through the UAA campus. Campus bus stops are still accessible. For more information, visit the People Mover’s detour page on the municipality website. 

The Seawolf Shuttle is also impacted by the road closure. Shuttles may be delayed and not arrive precisely at posted times, according to the official shuttle website. Track the shuttle at or through the UAA safe app.

Cooperation with the Municipality of Anchorage will allow for the construction on Providence Drive to be done before winter. Contact Brooke Blessing, project administrator, at [email protected] or at (907) 343-8135 for more information.