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Alaska national park road threatened by advancing landslide

June 5, 2019

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Dirt slowly sliding down a mountain threatens a section of road in Denali National Park and Preserve, officials said.

The road is in the path of a creeping landslide that has pushed a 100-yard (91-meter) stretch of the gravel road 6 feet (1.8 meters) since September, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Monday.

Maintenance staff used rock and gravel to fill a gap in a section of the 92-mile (148-kilometer) road at Polychrome Pass, officials said.

Most tourists access the park using the road and the landslide poses an “existential threat,” according to a National Park Service report.

The slide’s pace is accelerating. In 2016 it pushed the road 3 feet (0.9 meters) down the mountain, doubling that distance in 2017, and then doubling it again to 12 feet (3.7 meters) in 2018, officials said.

Park managers are fixing problems as they occur to maintain the road’s existing path, but are also exploring options including bridging over or tunneling under the slope. Structures could also be built to block the landslide, or rock could be removed from above to reduce the risk, officials said.

U.S. lawmakers have asked the park service to report on the potential for a re-route.

“To rebuild this, or to do an alternate route, is going to be exceptionally expensive. It is just not easily done,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, said last week in Anchorage.

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