Alaska Highway 85 is one of the state’s most popular highways, with more than 7,000 drivers a day traveling on it.
That’s more than double the number of vehicles that drive to the airport on Interstate 95 in Minneapolis.
But with its closure on Thursday, highway 85 was in for another round of bad news for Alaska motorists.
The state’s Department of Transportation said it would temporarily close the highway due to “high water,” a condition that occurs when the water level in the reservoir reaches dangerously high levels.
“This is a critical situation, and we have been working with the Department of Fish and Game to make sure we are prepared to move the roadway,” said Alaskan Highway 85 spokeswoman Sarah Sorenson.
Sorenson said the agency had not yet been told what the reason was for the shutdown.
“We are still looking into the cause,” she said.
But the highway’s main obstacle is its high water level.
The reservoir is so high that it can only handle about a quarter of the volume of water that it normally receives from the sea, according to a 2016 report by the state Department of Natural Resources.
The highway was built in the 1940s to carry freight and other goods between Alaska’s vast interior and the southern Yukon, a region known for its wildlife and ice.
But since that era, it’s become the main road to reach the islands and to the northern coast of the mainland.
With high water levels, the roadway’s main obstacles include a dam on the Alaska Highway and the presence of a large iceberg that weighs more than two tons.
The ice has also become an issue for drivers traveling on the highway because of its poor visibility.
The road is one part of Alaska’s “Highway 85” system that connects Anchorage to Fairbanks.
It was designed to accommodate up to 25,000 vehicles per day, and to be open seven days a week, even when the snow melts and the weather gets colder.
The highway has also been plagued by ice jams that have disrupted service for months.
But now the highway is facing another major challenge: It’s about to close for good.
The National Weather Service said the water was expected to crest over a mile high Thursday afternoon.
That would create a major disruption to the highway, which was designed in the 1950s to move people, goods and freight between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska’s northernmost island.
The Highway 85 toll lane is the only access road to the island for people with Alaska Permanent Resident Card cards.
The road is a three-lane highway that runs along the coast of Alaska and has the distinction of being the first one to be completely closed since the highway was first built in 1941.
Sorensen said the closure would affect drivers traveling northbound on Highway 85 from Anchorage.
Alaska Highway 75, a one-lane road that connects Fairbanks to Fairport, also is closed due to the high water.
But there’s hope.
The Highway 85 Highway is a vital link in Alaska’s transportation system and is used by tens of thousands of people each day.
The high water is expected to subside by early next week.
Drivers traveling north on Highway 65 will have access to the new, paved section of Highway 85, which is about six miles (10 kilometers) shorter.
The state is also planning to reopen Highway 65, which connects Fairport to Anchorage, through September.