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Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
Alaska-based communications company GCI, Inc. will begin installation of a fiber optic cable within the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT) George Parks Highway right-of-way (ROW) that passes through the eastern portion of Denali National Park and Preserve. The trenching and installation work will start Tuesday, March 11 and is not expected to impede highway traffic flow through the six-mile stretch of the park.
The cable is part of a GCI line under construction between Wasilla and Fairbanks that will provide additional communications (voice data, video) capacity and backup to the existing GCI line between Anchorage and Fairbanks through Whittier and Valdez. Completing the loop will prevent an outage at one point in the loop from interrupting service.
The overall project involves three types of installation along the western side of the highway. The cable, contained within a 1 ½ inch conduit, will be placed under the Mile 237.5 railroad crossing via directional drilling; a directionally-drilled conduit already exists under Riley Creek near the highway bridge. The remainder of the installation will occur either at the bottom of the road ditch or at the bottom of the fill slope of the road, with the cable buried at a depth of 4 feet.
In sensitive areas where the highway borders wetlands, GCI will use a ditchwitch to dig a seven-inch wide trench for the cable. This work is being done in the winter while the ground is frozen to keep the trench from collapsing and limit soil and vegetation damage. During the summer, GCI will use a backhoe to dig a narrow trench for the cable in areas with better draining soil.
National Park Service (NPS), with joint authorization from ADOT, approved the fiber optic project following a public comment period that ended in December 2007. NPS determined that the proposed route for the cable occurred on ground previously disturbed during highway construction, and the work posed no measurable impact on the human environment. All of the project impacts occur within the ADOT George Parks Highway ROW. Maintenance of the road, road ditch, back slopes and fill slopes is the responsibility of ADOT and is authorized by their utility easement.
If you have any questions about the project, please call the Superintendent’s office at (907) 683-9581 or the park’s Compliance Program Manager, Steve Carwile, at (907) 644-3612.