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Kivalina Evacuation and School Site Access Road Project Wins National Award

FAIRBANKS, AK — Residents of Kivalina, Alaska, have a new evacuation route in case they need to leave their island home during a winter storm, and it recently became a nationally award-winning evacuation route. The Kivalina Evacuation Route and School Access Site project, completed in 2021, was recognized by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) for a national Quality of Life award for a medium sized project.

Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) officials recently accepted the award.

“This award belongs to the community and to each and every one of DOT&PF’s partners,” said Ryan Anderson, DOT&PF Commissioner. “The Native Village of Kivalina, City of Kivalina, Northwest Arctic Borough, NANA Regional Corporation, the Federal Highway Administration, and the many other federal and state agencies that worked as a team to bring the project to completion while protecting the people and resources of [the] Northwest Arctic region.”

The evacuation route provides residents with a safe and reliable road to a refuge site in case of a catastrophic storm. It has also increased food security for Kivalina, allowing residents to more easily conduct traditional subsistence activities including accessing fishing sites. The route also provides access to a new school under construction and will serve the evacuation site as a full-service community emergency shelter with all-season support capabilities.

DOT&PF took a unique approach to deliver this project. By teaming with communities and agencies, DOT&PF was able to deliver the project from concept to operational road in less than four years. And this accelerated timeframe resulted in a significantly reduced design and administrative costs.

Alternative contracting, utilizing the Construction Manager General Contractor (CM/GC) method provided further innovations, with ASRC Civil Construction building the project for $43 million. The new road, bridge, and causeway were designed to accommodate all modes of transportation for all seasons, and residents began using the new route immediately after opening.

The awards are sponsored by AASHTO, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The awards recognize state DOTs and highlight the projects they deliver that make communities a better place to live, work, and play. Project nominations fall into one of three categories: Operations Excellence, Best Use of Technology & Innovation, and Quality of Life/Community Development. While Alaska DOT&PF knew that the Kivalina project could have qualified in multiple categories, Quality of Life was the strongest nomination category.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 237 airports, nine ferries serving 33 communities, over 5,600 miles of highway, and 839 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska.

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