May 24, 2023 Update: The amount of design needed to award the contract options has delayed the start of construction from May 2023 to July 2023 (other than some initial mobilization). Due to finding clay in the excavation on the west side of project, the excavation has increased significantly (from 30,000 cy in January 2023 to 80,000 now) and that with the delayed start means excavation will not be completed in 2023. The site is limited in space to the point that construction sequencing cannot be overlapped to recover the timeframe to the original proposal. The earthworks and bridge foundations are now scheduled to be completed in 2024, and the bridge is scheduled to be built in 2025, resulting in a new project completion date in 2026. Until the project is complete, visitors can still take a transit or tour bus out to the East Fork area at Mile 43, and anyone who is traveling along the Park Road this summer should expect to encounter construction traffic.
Follow the Pretty Rocks Construction blog for photos and updates on the progress of the project throughout the summer.
Since late August 2021, a portion of the Denali Park Road near Polychrome has been displaced by the Pretty Rocks Landslide (mile 45.4), cutting off vehicular access to popular visitor destinations and facilities including Polychrome Overlook, Toklat, Eielson Visitor Center, Wonder Lake, and Kantishna.
Check the current conditions of the Park Road and visitor services.
The Federal Highways Administration (FHWA), in collaboration with the National Park Service (NPS), developed the Polychrome Area Improvements plan to restore reliable road access west of Pretty Rocks by addressing several geologic hazards in the Polychrome area (Mile 44–46) that threaten public safety and infrastructure. The plan includes constructing a bridge to span the Pretty Rocks Landslide, and designs are being finalized. Funding was secured through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and a construction contract was awarded in January 2023 to begin work in Summer 2023. Due to the road closure, buses will continue to travel no farther than mile 43 of the 92-mile Park Road and access to Kantishna inholdings will be primarily by air until the bridge is completed.
NEPA and NHPA Compliance
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) mandates an environmental assessment of any proposed federal action that has the potential to “significantly affect the quality of the human environment." Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires that federal agencies identify and assess the effects its actions may have on historic properties and consider public views and concerns about historic preservation issues when making final project decisions. Compliance with the NHPA is conducted concurrent with, but as a separate process to, the NEPA compliance process.
Environmental and cultural compliance for the Polychrome Area Improvements project was formally initiated in October 2021 and was completed in March 2022:
The NPS contracted an environmental consulting firm (AECOM) to prepare the Environmental Assessment (EA), which considered the environmental consequences of a “no action alternative” (no new bridge and the road remains closed) and an “action alternative” (construct Pretty Rocks Bridge and Polychrome Road Improvements).
Prior to the development of the EA, the NPS consulted with federally recognized Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, State and local governments, and the State Historic Preservation Office. The NPS also hosted two virtual public meetings in October 2021 to identify and document specific concerns, issues, and potential impacts of both alternatives. Issue topics analyzed in the EA included geology, socioeconomics, visual resources, visitor use and experience, noise / soundscape, wildlife, wetlands and vegetation, cultural resources, and wilderness. Following the publication of the EA in January 2022, two additional virtual public meetings were held to discuss the analysis and provide information to aid the public in reviewing and commenting on the compliance document.
After careful consideration of resource impacts, consultation with stakeholders, and review of public comments, the NPS concluded that the Polychrome Area Improvements project would not have a significant effect on the environment. The Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was approved by the NPS Alaska Regional Director and released to the public in March 2022.
How Can I Get Involved?
Check the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website for documents available for review and comment.
Last updated: May 23, 2023