Testing and Screening Surfacing Materials for Alaska's Yukon River Bridge

AIDC project number: 410008


J. Leroy Hulsey (UAF)

  • US Department of Transportation (RITA)
  • Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities
  • Start Date: Jul 1, 2010
  • End Date: Dec 31, 2011

Project Summary

The Yukon River Bridge, also known as the E.L. Patton Bridge, carries the twolane Dalton Highway and the trans-Alaska oil pipeline across the Yukon River at a 6% grade. It is 30 feet wide, with 6 spans, it was designed to withstand -60 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures, huge ice loads from the river, truck loads hauling supplies to the oil fields, the oil pipeline, and, in the future, a gas line. Over 30 years, the timber decking has been replaced several times: in 1981, 1992, 1999, and 2007. The trees that produced the original decking were massive old-growth firs, strong and close-grained. Subsequent decking has come from younger trees, which produce softer wood. As timber quality has decreased, time between replacements has also decreased, while material costs increase. Every time the Yukon River Bridge deck is resurfaced, it costs the public millions of dollars. Further, in the past only timber was used, and the quality of this material is decreasing as the cost is increasing. It is imperative that new materials for use as a wearing surface for this bridge be identified. This research seeks to identify a material suitable for bridge decking that will last more than 15 years. A longer-lasting material will mean future savings to the ADOT&PF in the millions of dollars.