Another state road, Haugen Drive, was chip sealed in 2017. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

The Alaska Department of Transportation expects to finish up a chip sealing project on Mitkof Highway south of Petersburg by Saturday. The treatment is intended to prolong the life of the mostly paved two-lane state road, which runs about 36 miles from Petersburg to the southeast corner of the island. The work started about 10 miles south of Petersburg just after the July 4th holiday.

Lance Mearig is the DOT’s Southcoast region director and said the work has gone well. “Warm and dry weather is what really helps us get the work done in a way that the product will last the longest,” Mearig said. “So it should serve the community well.”

Chip seal is a layer of gravel fixed to the road surface with liquid asphalt. It’s normally compacted and then swept to remove loose pieces of gravel. Those caused problems when the DOT treated the north end of Mitkof Highway in 2017. Loose gravel cracked windshields and chipped paint. This summer’s work is on a portion of the highway that sees less vehicle traffic. During the work the roadway has been posted with a 30 mile and hour speed limit. Slower speeds cut down on vehicle damage from driving on the new surface.

Mearig expected the DOT would be sweeping the new surface by the middle part of this week. “It should be cleaned up and there won’t be any flagging for the sweeping operations,” he said. “That’s a mobile operation. So when traffic has an opportunity and it’s safe they can move around the sweeping operation but if a line of vehicles builds up behind the sweeping operation, they’ll move aside and let traffic pass and then get back to work.”

A DOT crew of about 15 people has done the Mitkof Highway chip sealing. It’s expected to cost around two million dollars, with most of it funded by the federal government. A crew should be in town later this year to paint road stripes on that and other state roadways.