By Melinda Munson

Dyea Road users making bets on when the road would first be graded in 2022 got their answer as the several day process started March 29.

Deb Boettcher, who drives the state road every day to walk her dogs, was relieved. 

“Finally they fixed the potholes,” she said. “It was really bad this winter.”

She considered placing “Adopt a Pothole” signs up for April Fool’s, but her plot was foiled by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT).

“It’s a lot better,” she said. Although she noted new potholes were already forming.

Boettcher said she creeps down the gravel road at 15 mph but even that didn’t save her car from damages. She recently had a flat tire repaired and her brake line broke, having dislodged and rubbed against a tire.

Dyea resident John McDermott also travels the Dyea Road daily.

“I understand the frustration everybody has. You can’t grade a frozen road,” he said.

Assemblymember Orion Hanson reminds residents that the next six weeks of freezing, unfreezing and precipitation will result in a muddy mess on the Dyea Road.

“That’s the reality of what it’s like,” he said. “It’s light years better than it was 40 years ago.”

This year will bring particular challenges as Skagway faces its first somewhat normal cruise ship season following the 2020 storm with flooding and landslides that damaged parts of the mountain road.

According to DOT, “The Dyea Road damage sites have been stabilized with temporary embankment fill and berms to redirect water away from the roadway. Traffic cones are in place to direct drivers away from damage sites.”

“We’ve lost some road surface,” Hanson noted. “There’s quite a few one lane aspects.”

Hanson noted that on a narrow road with ocean on one side and mountain on the other, “There are a lot of places with no line of sight at all. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

He hopes tour operators “coach their operators well” as “there is no room for error.”

According to DOT, the permanent repair design for the road is expected to be complete by June 2022. Construction could begin Fall 2022, with a pause in the winter and completion expected in 2023.

In the meantime, long-time Dyea resident Jeff Brady has advice for anyone planning to use Dyea Road. 

“Everyone needs to be extra careful along the east side of Nahku Bay this summer. Word really needs to go out to Yukoners and new tour drivers about this, and maintaining proper Dyea Road etiquette: stop and pull over at the nearest turnout to allow oncoming vehicles to pass safely. And don’t forget to wave,” he said.