Ice Roads Symposium in Planning

Sep 10, 2021

A symposium focusing on the placement, design and maintenance of ice roads is planned for February 8-9, 2022 in Bethel Alaska. Ice roads are a common type transportation corridor in regions of the circumpolar north that traverse frozen rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. The ice that forms the road is created each winter and can be highly variable due to the influence of weather, hydrology, and other factors. Experience has shown that ice roads and crossing routes vary from winter to winter and often during a single winter requiring constant adjustments in the route along the river. This inherent variability in both ice and river characteristics results in one of the most challenging environments in which to maintain a transportation corridor. 

Successful ice road design, construction and maintenance begins with an understanding of the bearing capacity of ice for stationary and moving loads. To estimate the bearing capacity of ice the following must be known. First the material properties of ice such as strength vary with ice type and with the temperature of the ice. Also, ice has a strong tendency to “creep” – to deform continuously under constant stress ‐ that adds a time varying element to the properties of ice. Second, that the ice road and the loads transported on the road are ultimately supported by the buoyancy of water. The ice road and the water beneath it must be a coupled system that reacts together to support loads. This coupled system reacts differently for stationary loads as compared to moving loads. Moving loads create waves that propagate at speeds controlled by the ice properties and hydraulic conditions. Safe design and operation of ice roads must consider the impacts of these ice coupled waves.