Anyone who drives South Tongass Highway is riding more comfortably now that the roadway between U.S. Coast Guard Base Ketchikan and Saxman has been resurfaced.

Gone are the axle-crunching potholes that had white-knuckled drivers weaving about in search of safe passage. The smooth new asphalt overlay is a joy to traverse, and likely is helping to reduce blood pressures on the South End.

Our appreciation goes to the Alaska Department of Transportation, Sen. Bert Stedman and Rep. Dan Oritz for working to get this accomplished. It had been clear that even with DOT’s Ketchikan maintenence crew putting down more than 60 tons of patching material since the start of 2020, something more needed to be done.

DOT engineers designed the project, funding was secured, and work began earlier this month. The agency anticipates that the effort will “provide smoother roadway surfaces and increase safety until two larger projects begin in 2022.”

Sounds good. Sounds correct. Maintaining existing infrastructure probably isn’t as much fun as planning and building new stuff, but it sure makes a positive difference for the people who rely on that infrastructure.

The downtown core between the tunnel and Stedman Street was much improved by the long-running DOT project completed in 2019, for example. The replacement bridges across the waterfall creeks will be safe for all traffic — including fire department equipment — when completed soon. There’s a road improvement project underway on Gravina Island, and we’re looking forward to the results of the upcoming Gravina Access project work.

 Those projects are all larger in scale than an asphalt overlay on a stretch of South Tongass Highway. Yet one can’t underestimate the value of a now-smooth roadway to those who drive it daily.