Motorists have sometimes experienced hour-long delays in the southbound lanes of the Glenn Highway in recent weeks due to construction at the Mirror Lake exit, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said.

The department is working with the contractor to mitigate delays, spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy said, and it expects traffic flow to improve as the project progresses.

“We recognize that this is unacceptable, that we cannot have this when people are trying to get to their jobs, school, or doctor’s appointments,” she said.

Construction on the Mirror Lake exit began in the spring and is expected to continue through October, McCarthy said. The project will create permanent repairs for damage caused by the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in 2018, she said. The work should also prevent the road from failing in another major earthquake, she said.

[Post-earthquake road repairs are almost complete – but they’re only temporary]

The $ 6.9 million project is largely federally funded, with less than 10% coming from the state, McCarthy said.

One of the two incoming lanes is closed at 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and 7:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to allow crews to work overnight, McCarthy said. The lane will reopen at 4:30 a.m. on weekdays and at 7 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, she said. The Mirror Lake exit is closed.

Recently, traffic near the construction zone has receded for miles because three poorly maintained gravel roads had deteriorated so badly that they were “no longer passable at freeway speeds,” said McCarthy.

“So people had to slow down, and when people really slow down on Glenn Highway, there is a really long queue, and then when a single lane is closed, it’s really difficult to clear that reserve,” she said.

Much of the deterioration was due to continued rainfall, McCarthy said, and contractors have not “kept it at levels that the public and the DOT have come to expect”. The rain also delayed the paving of the pavement that was south of the driveways and exits and near the Paradis Lane flyover, McCarthy said.

A project manager from HC Contracting was not available for comment prior to the publication of this story.

The crews smoothed the gravel and finished paving the final patch Thursday morning, McCarthy said, but the work stretched over the time when the road should have been fully opened – which in turn resulted in significant delays.

There have been several other morning delays caused by a delay in reopening the lane, McCarthy said.

A machine failure one morning forced workers to keep the second lane closed until a piece of heavy machinery could be removed from the pavement, McCarthy said. Another morning the crews were still working on the gravel fields, she said.

“If these traffic control devices stop after 6am, even if you pull out the traffic control devices at 6:15 or 6:30 am – the freeway just can’t clear that traffic,” she said. “And that’s why sometimes there is a big slowdown when driving a car … and then you drive through an area at very, very slow speed and suddenly it clears up and you never saw anything, and that’s why – it’s this residual traffic jam that a motorway experiences will.”

For Steve Kruse of Eagle River, the delays dampen the time they spend with outside family members. He said he recently spent more than an hour in traffic with his brother and mother-in-law as they drove back to Eagle River from Palmer.

On Sunday and Monday, said Kruse, there were similar delays. And on Tuesday, his family decided not to travel because they didn’t want to risk being stuck in traffic again, he said.

And it’s good that he didn’t go out, he said, because a collision had closed the motorway near the construction site for more than two hours.

A Chevy Silverado pickup truck ended a Chrysler sedan that was stopped for construction traffic south of the Eklutna flyover, an Anchorage police spokeswoman said. The Chrysler then crashed into a Toyota minivan, which was stopped in front of it, police said in a statement.

One person was flown from the scene with serious injuries and two more were taken to hospital, the police said.

Another accident early Sunday was unrelated to the construction work, but temporarily closed the southbound lanes near the Eklutna exit. A northbound vehicle rolled and eventually came to a stop in the southbound lanes, said Renee Oistad, a police spokeswoman. There were no injuries.

McCarthy said she was not aware of any other collisions near the construction site and police did not immediately provide information on whether there had been any other collisions in the area recently.

McCarthy said she believes the traffic situation has improved significantly this week. Active work on the freeway will be halted during the Alaska State Fair, which opens on Friday and attracts large crowds from Anchorage.

“The delays this summer have been very unfortunate and we are working with the contractor to fix these and prevent them from happening in the future,” she said.