Alaska eyes restrictions on haul road

| 10/24/2001

State officials are considering restricting traffic on the Dalton Highway to protect the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and North Shore oil facilities from terrorist attacks. The 414-mile long highway, built in 1974 to serve the North Slope oil industry, has been used mainly by big rigs carrying supplies to Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

The options for reducing traffic range from closing the road to the public to putting checkpoints along the highway, the Anchorage Daily News reported. A group of state officials evaluating the security of the state's transportation, energy and communications facilities is scheduled to submit its recommendations later this month.

Though the road is open to the public, the number of travelers adventurous enough to tackle the rutted, gravel road has remained relatively small. An average of 246 vehicles per day used the road last year.

Officials with Alyseka Pipeline Service Co., which operates the 800-mile pipeline, favor some type of traffic restriction on the highway, also known as the haul road. "We've suggested to the state that one way to help secure the pipeline and the North Slope oil fields would be to provide some degree of control," Bill Howitt, Alyseka's senior vice president, told the newspaper. "It's up to the state to determine what that might be."

The need for added protection for the pipeline was driven home recently when a man fired a .338-caliber bullet into the line, causing a 285,000-gallon oil spill.