AUTC project number: 107054
Yuri Shur (UAF)
The Alaska Highway, the only road connecting Alaska to the contiguous U.S., crosses large areas of permafrost-rich soils. Highway reconstruction in the mid-1990s damaged the organic layer that insulated and protected the surrounding permafrost. Since then, heat transfer through the road has been melting the ground ice. The thawing and settling ground has created dips, bumps, potholes, and cracks. Throughout the past 10 years, the climate has been relatively stable, but in the near future, climate warming will undoubtedly increase permafrost degradation and damage to the road. AUTC, working with the Yukon Highways and Public Works, explored ways to slow this permafrost degradation. Researchers selected test sites, characterized surrounding soil conditions, and installed instrumentation for long-term data collection. Team members, working with engineers at YHPW and Laval University, finalized designs for mitigating damage to the highway.