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Collapse of the Iron Creek Culvert, Alaska Highway, 2001

An Explorer's Guide to the Alaska Highway

Collapsed Iron Creek culvert, Alaska Highway, 2001     On Tuesday, June 5, 2001, a huge culvert collapsed at Iron Creek (sometimes called Irons Creek), at Km 918.9 of the Alaska Highway, in British Columbia about 40 km southeast of Watson Lake, Yukon.

    Built by Golden Hill Ventures of Whitehorse, the culvert was 23 meters wide (76 feet), 8.2 meters high (27 feet), and 35 meters long (115 feet). It was said to be the largest culvert bridge ever built in the world. Specifically designed to protect fish habitat, the $2 million culvert (some sources say as high as $11 million) was installed in 1998 to replace a narrow, 50-year-old bridge which had just been taken down a couple of months before the collapse.

    The collapse completely closed the Alaska Highway for 2 days until a one-lane Bailey bridge was installed - actually it wasn't a Bailey bridge but that was the name used for it by almost everyone. Traffic over that bridge was controlled by flag-people and later automatic traffic lights at each end. The temporary bridge cost about $165,000 to install and maintain.

    For transport trucks in particular, the location of the one-lane bridge was problematic, as there was a steep grade down to it and back up from it.

    On September 10, 2002, the Whitehorse Star reported that Surespan Construction was mobilizing a crew to install a new bridge, which had an opening deadline of January 21st, 2003. "The traditional-style bridge will consist of concrete abuttments on both sides of Iron Creek, spanned by steel girders that will be covered by pre-cast cement bridge decking." The same article reported that a spokesman from the Public Works' Edmonton office had said that it had been decided to keep the cause of the culvert collapse in-house, to be used as a "lessons learned" exercise. The spokesman "also declined to explain why it was decided not to share with the public the results of a $75,000 forensic study into the culvert failure." It was thought by many that several days of heavy rains had washed away the earth around it, though.

    Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it. These photos were all shot by Murray Lundberg on July 10, 2001.

Collapsed Iron Creek culvert, Alaska Highway, 2001
Collapsed Iron Creek culvert, Alaska Highway, 2001

Collapsed Iron Creek culvert, Alaska Highway, 2001
Collapsed Iron Creek culvert, Alaska Highway, 2001