Kachemak Drive reopens to traffic

Just nine days after a mudslide took out part of Kachemak Drive on the west end, repairs have been made and the road reopened Tuesday night. The fixed section of road still needs to be paved, with some flagging and one-lane traffic, but the road won’t be closed further.

Kevin Jones, the local manager of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Homer area, credited the hard work of his crew and a stretch of warm, clear weather for getting repairs done ahead of schedule. 

Officials had said last week it might take two weeks to repair the road, but it took less than that to dig out the mudslide, put in new drainage and repair the road. “Everything just came together,” Jones said.

DOT&PF used pavement milling — ground up asphalt from last summer’s road repaving — as the top layer for the repaired road. After the road has set up, crews will pave the stretch. 

A mudslide about 8 a.m. April 19 took out about a 70-foot section of the road on the hill about a half-mile from the intersection with Homer Spit Road. The side of the hill slid into Mud Bay, including a clump of 100-foot tall spruce trees. 

Engineers left the toe of the slide where it landed to keep silt from washing into the wetlands — important shorebird and animal habitat — and to hold repairs. Already alders have started to bud and devil’s club grown back.

Jones said workers redid a drainage ditch on the uphill side, putting in cobble rock wrapped in filter fabric. As soon as that went in, the mud below it dried up, Jones said.

Jones said he thought a series of causes and not just one thing made the slope collapse. 

Saturated soils, a warm winter with no real frost and remnants of a World War II era corrugated road all contributed.

“I truly think it was a perfect storm,” he said. “Everything lined up.”

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.