Culvert Replacement On the Ice Road Truckers Highway

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | March 2010 Vol. 65 No. 3

Harr Technologies' trenchless method of cleaning culverts and its successful use on projects in Alaska resulted in company owner Bob Harr being asked to help solve a critical problem threatening to close the James Dalton Highway, well known to American television audiences from the History Channel's series, Ice Road Truckers.

The problem facing Alaska highway officials was a collapsed seven foot diameter multi plate culvert beneath a remote stretch of highway three hours north of Fairbanks. Keeping the highway open is critical – it is the only land connection to the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the North Slope.

The 164 foot long culvert was buried 79 feet deep in mixed, frozen soils. The condition of the collapsed culvert made it impossible to clean and return to service making replacement of the failed culvert the only option. Silver Fox Construction, also owned by Harr, was selected to perform this critical part of the project.

"The condition of the culvert threatened collapse of the road which had to be prevented at any cost," said Harr. "Closing the road for the time required to dig up and replace the failed culvert was out of the question, and limited right of way and other factors ruled out building a temporary detour."

To accomplish the job, a trenchless solution appeared to be the only option.

Alaska officials were familiar with Harr Technologies' trenchless culvert cleaning process, and Harr was brought into discussions about the problem. Ultimately it was agreed to try a combination of the Harr cleaning process and pipe ramming to install a new 96 inch diameter pipe that would be rammed through the cleared space.

The decision helped the primary contractor, Hamilton Construction, Skagway, AK, keep the road open without developing a detour, preventing the need to transport and remove fill and avoiding other complications.

Short time, brutal conditions
Work had to be completed in a short period of time. "The work season is very short," Harr said. "Even with sun shining, it is brutally cold. We started this project in September and within weeks, temperatures were falling and daylight was shrinking by nine minutes a day. By October, temperatures had fallen to more than 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Pipe and other materials were shipped to Seattle, barged to Alaska, then hauled from Anchorage to the project site, an 11 hour journey. Federal Bureau of Land Management permits had to be obtained for the storage of materials at the site because the state right of way was too small."