Whittier Access Tunnel - Whittier, Alaska
The Whittier Access Tunnel was Alaska's first design-build transportation project. Kiewit crews converted the 1940s-era railroad tunnel into a state-of-the-art multi-use rail/automobile tunnel.
The scope of work for this $60 million project included increasing the crown height by an average of 1.5 feet to allow installation of six 75-hp jet fans. Also installed were four 300-hp portal fans designed to blow smoke and fumes away from motorists in the event of fire or other emergency. Crews demolished existing buildings at both ends of the tunnel and replaced them with A-frame structures capable of withstanding avalanches. A first in American tunnel construction, eight “safe houses” were constructed throughout the 2.6-mile-long tunnel, each capable of providing a fireproof haven for up to 55 people.
Crews battled high winds and dealt with 40-foot average annual snowfalls. Service train operations had to continue during construction of the 16-foot-wide tunnel, which presented many scheduling and safety concerns for crews. Due to tight scheduling, team members placed heavy emphasis on partnering. The close cooperation between client, designer and contractor allowed the project to progress at an accelerated pace.