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Seward Highway

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Alaska Route 1 marker

Alaska Route 9 marker

National Forest Scenic Byway marker

Seward Highway

Seward Highway highlighted in red
Route information
Length125.336 mi[2] (201.709 km)
Seward Highway
Major junctions
South endRailway Avenue in Seward
Major intersections
North endEast 5th Avenue in Anchorage
CountryUnited States
BoroughsKenai Peninsula, Municipality of Anchorage
Highway system
AK-98AK-1 AK-2
AK-8AK-9 AK-10

The Seward Highway is a highway in the U.S. state of Alaska that extends 125 miles (201 km) from Seward to Anchorage. It was completed in 1951 and runs through the scenic Kenai Peninsula, Chugach National Forest, Turnagain Arm, and Kenai Mountains. The Seward Highway is numbered Alaska Route 9 (AK-9) for the first 37 miles (60 km) from Seward to the Sterling Highway and AK-1 for the remaining distance to Anchorage. At the junction with the Sterling Highway, AK-1 turns west towards Sterling and Homer. About eight miles (13 km) of the Seward Highway leading into Anchorage is built to freeway standards. In Anchorage, the Seward Highway terminates at an intersection with 5th Avenue, which AK-1 is routed to, and which then leads to the Glenn Highway freeway.

Route description[edit]

The full length of the Seward Highway has been listed on the National Highway System (NHS),[3] a network of roads important to the country's economy, defense, and mobility.[4] The segment designated AK-9 between Seward and Tern Lake Junction is part of the STRAHNET subsystem,[3] highways that are important to defense policy and which provide defense access, continuity and emergency capabilities for defense purposes.[4] The remainder that follows AK-1 is also designated Interstate A-1 (A-1) and included in the NHS on that basis.[3] The state's Interstate Highways are not required to comply with Interstate Highway standards,[5] instead "shall be designed in accordance with such geometric and construction standards as are adequate for current and probable future traffic demands and the needs of the locality of the highway" under federal law.[6] The highway is maintained by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (Alaska DOT&PF), and the A-1 designation is not signed along the highway.[7] In 2010, 2,520 vehicles used the highway near the junction with Sterling Highway in a measure of the annual average daily traffic, the lowest tally along the highway. The highest traffic count as recorded by Alaska DOT&PF was 58,799 vehicles daily at the Dowling Road overpass in Anchorage.[2] In 2012, Life magazine included the Seward Highway in its list of Most Scenic Drives in the World.

Seward to Bear Creek[edit]

An aerial view of Seward and vicinity, including Bear Creek. (The southern end of the Seward Highway runs through the center of the photo.)

The Seward Highway begins at an intersection with Railway Avenue, in Seward, less than 300 feet (91 m) from Resurrection Bay. At this point, the Seward Highway is two lanes, with a parking lane on each side. The Seward Highway is designated as AK-9 at this point of the route. The highway continues through downtown Seward and residential areas. The highway continues past the Seward Airport and Exit Glacier road, before entering the unincorporated community of Bear Creek.[8] Just after entering Bear Creek, a series of tracks belonging to the Alaska Railroad comes alongside the roadway. These railroad tracks continue on with the Seward Highway until Moose Pass, return near a junction with the Portage Glacier Highway, and remain until the highway becomes a freeway, in southern Anchorage. The Seward Highway proceeds through central Bear Creek, passing Bear Lake, until entering Chugach National Forest.[9]

Chugach National Forest[edit]

Seward Highway, in the Chugach National Forest, approaching a snow-capped mountain range

The Seward Highway enters the Chugach National Forest just 5 miles (8.0 km) after its start. The highway enters the Chugach National Forest while it is still part of the Bear Creek community, so it gives the appearance of still being inside that census-designated place. After a mile or so (1.6 km) though, the area surrounding the highway begins to look more like a national forest. The Alaska Railroad weaves back and forth under the highway, which causes the highway to traverse a series of small bridges. For a few miles after the bridges, the Seward Highway is a four-lane road, but then merges back to two lane. After passing through about 10 miles (16 km) of forest, the highway passes Primrose Spur Road, and enters Primrose. For the next five or so miles (8 km), the route runs on a thin strip of land between the mountains and Kenai Lake. At the northern end of Kenai Lake, the route passes through Crown Point, and provides access to a large campground where Trail Creek empties into Kenai Lake. The highway runs alongside Trail Creek for about 6 miles (9.7 km), before passing the settlement of Moose Pass. The road continues, passing along Upper Trail Lake for a few miles, before returning to the dense forest, and passing a large mountain range. After a few more miles, the road passes the Tern Lake Junction, and intersects with Alaska Route 1 (AK-1) (also known as the Sterling Highway), where Alaska Route 9 terminates, and the Seward Highway is designated to AK-1.[10]

Summit Lake

It is at this point that the road begins to climb into the actual mountains to approach Turnagain Pass. For several miles, the roadway continues through large, Alaskan spruce forests. After approximately 10 miles (16 km), the highway passes Summit Lake, and provides access to another large campground. The road then continues through the mountains. After about 8 miles (13 km), the route intersects the Hope Highway, which provides access to the city of Hope, and the highway reenters forest. The route continues through the mountains for about 24 miles (39 km) more, before a steep decline, at which point the highway exits the Kenai Peninsula and continues along the shores Turnagain Arm. Just after reaching Turnagain Arm, the highway enters the city limits of Anchorage (and remains within Anchorage proper for the remainder of its route). After intersecting the Portage Glacier Highway the Alaska Railroad tracks again come alongside the route. The highway continues through the Chugach National Forest for approximately 8 miles (13 km), passing the Turnagain Arm to the west, and the Kenai Mountains to the east. It then exits the Chugach National Forest, having spent approximately 72 miles (116 km) inside its boundaries.[8]

Girdwood to Anchorage[edit]

Wintertime view of the Seward Highway at mile 97 (km 156), looking northbound as it passes through Bird. The Chugach Mountains are in the background. The Alaska Railroad tracks are to the left of the highway.
Aerial view of the highway as it passes through Bird, looking southbound, showing a larger area than the above photo. Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Mountains are in the background.
Southbound Seward Highway viewed from Tudor Road, showing capacity improvements to the northernmost freeway portion completed in 2013.

After the highway exits the National Forest, it continues for about 5 miles (8.0 km) through spruce forest, before passing the community of Girdwood. After about a mile, the highway enters Chugach State Park. The road continues through forest for about 10 miles (16 km) more, before passing the small skiing village of Bird. The route reenters the park for about a mile, before entering the village of Indian, and then reentering the forest. The Seward Highway passes along the coast of Cook Inlet for about 12 miles (19 km), with the Kenai Mountains running along the northern side. The highway then proceeds to enter the suburban area of Anchorage. The highway intersects Old Seward Highway, before becoming a four-lane freeway. The freeway's first exit is, in fact, for Old Seward Highway. The freeway continues past several neighborhoods, a plant nursery, and Rabbit Creek Elementary School.

At an exit for De Armoun Road, the highway's frontage road begins. The freeway continues past dozens of neighborhoods, a few small businesses, and provides exits for a few small roads, including the Minnesota Drive Expressway. After the exit for Abbott Road, part of the frontage road terminates. The route then passes through a more commercial area of Anchorage, passing several warehouses.[8] At the freeway's final exit, for Tudor Road, the rest of the frontage roads either begin or terminate. The freeway ends at the highway's intersection with East 36th Avenue. About a half a mile (1 km) later, the highway splits into Ingra Street (northbound), and Gambell Street (southbound). The Seward Highway officially reaches its northern terminus at an intersection with 5th Avenue.[11][12] AK-1 continues on for a short period as 5th Avenue, before becoming known as the Glenn Highway.


The southern terminus of the Seward Highway in 1959, as seen from aboard a ship docked at the Seward Harbor (which was moved following the 1964 earthquake).
Near Bird Point

An 18-mile-long (29 km) stretch of the Seward Highway, traveling from Seward to Kenai Lake was completed in 1923. Another segment of the highway, running between Moose Pass and Hope, was completed in 1928. The Mile 18 bridge, nicknamed "The Missing Link", which would connect the Seward and Moose Pass portions, was not completed until 1946, which was a major cause of the delayed completion of the highway.[1] The roadway was completed on October 19, 1951,[13] connecting Seward to the major city of Anchorage by road for the first time (Seward was previously reached by sea, rail, or air).[1] The entire length of the highway was paved in 1952.[13] During the 1964 Alaska earthquake, about 20 miles (32 km) of the Seward Highway sank below the high water mark of Turnagain Arm; the highway and its bridges were raised and rebuilt in 1964–66.

The highway was designated a National Forest Scenic Byway by the United States Forest Service on September 8, 1989. Later, the State of Alaska added it to the State Scenic Byway system on January 29, 1993. The final designation was added on June 15, 2000, when the Seward Highway was named an All-American Road as part of the National Scenic Byway program by the United States Secretary of Transportation.[14] The length of the highway traveling from the AK-1 and AK-9 intersection to the northern terminus is designated as Interstate A-3 by the National Highway System.[3]

In July 2016, Alaska DOT&PF officials posted updated speed limits on a five-mile (8.0 km) section of the Seward Highway south of Anchorage between Hope Junction to the top of Turnagain Pass. The limit in the right lane is 55 mph (89 km/h), while that in the left lane is 65 mph (105 km/h). The project is designed to enhance safety and improve congestion by enforcing passing lane usage.[15]

In 2017, Alaska DOT&PF announced a four-year Milepost 75–90 Rehabilitation Project,[16][17] scheduled to begin in 2018, to make major safety improvements to a busy crash-prone section of the Seward Highway from Girdwood to beyond the Portage curve toward Turnagain Pass ending at Ingram Creek. In July 2015 a tour bus crash at milepost 79 killed one man and critically injured several others, causing a 10-hour traffic jam. During the summer months, up to 15,000 vehicles use this 15-mile (24 km) stretch of Seward Highway daily.[18][19]

Interstate Highway System[edit]

Interstate A-3 marker

Interstate A-3

LocationSoldotna to Anchorage
Length238.38 mi (383.64 km)

Seward Highway is part of the unsigned part of the Interstate Highway System as Interstate A-3.[20][21]

U.S. Bicycle Route 97[edit]

United States Bicycle Route 97 is a U.S. Bicycle Route located along Alaska Route 1. The bike route runs alongside the Seward Highway along the entire length of the highway. The bike route was created in 2011.[22][23]

Major intersections[edit]

All exits are unnumbered.

Kenai PeninsulaSeward0.0000.000Railway AvenueSouthern terminus of Seward Highway and of AK-9
0.6501.046A Street
1.4682.363Port Avenue
Bear Creek3.2675.258Nash Road
3.7686.064 Herman Leirer Road
(formerly Exit Glacier Road)
6.66710.729Bear Lake Road
Primrose16.97027.311 Primrose Spur Road
Moose Pass28.84546.422Depot Road
32.12551.700Southern trailhead, Johnson Pass Trail
AK-1 (Sterling Highway)

AK-9 south
Northern terminus of AK-9; Seward Highway assumes the AK-1 designation northbound; highway divides at Sterling Highway intersection
45.36773.011Summit Lake Lodge
55.72989.687 Hope HighwaySouthern terminus of Hope Highway
67.461108.568Turnagain Pass—highway divides
74.341119.640Ingram Creek bridge
Municipality of Anchorage78.040125.593 Portage Glacier HighwayWestern terminus of Portage Glacier Highway
79.566128.049Alaska Railroad Portage siding
89.322143.750Alyeska Highway to Crow Creek RoadSouth end of Alyeska Highway; access to the Girdwood community
100.016160.960Sawmill RoadAccess to the Bird community
103.064165.865Indian RoadAccess to the Indian community
110.863178.417McHugh Creek Campground Road
114.493184.259Potter Valley Road
116.782187.942East 154th Avenue
116.782187.942South end of freeway
117.175188.575Old Seward Highway
Rabbit Creek Road
117.656189.349De Armoun RoadSouthbound exit and northbound entrance; southern end of Brayton Drive frontage road
118.771191.143Huffman Road
119.803192.804O'Malley Road/Minnesota DriveSouthern terminus of O'Malley Road/Minnesota Drive
121.314195.236East Dimond Boulevard
Abbott Road
Southern end of Homer Drive frontage road
122.018196.369East 76th Avenue
Lore Road
Southbound exit and northbound entrance
122.816197.653East Dowling Road
123.821199.271East Tudor RoadNorthern end of Brayton Drive and Homer Drive frontage roads
124.363200.143East 36th AvenueNorthern end of freeway, southern end of expressway
124.752200.769East Benson BoulevardOne way eastbound
124.877200.970East Northern Lights BoulevardOne way westbound
125.059201.263East Fireweed Lane
AK-1 north (Gambell Street / Ingra Street) / East 20th Avenue
Northern end of expressway and AK-1 concurrency; Continuation of AK-1 splits into a one-way pair to downtown Anchorage
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Old Seward Highway[edit]

Old Seward Highway

Length7.943 mi[2] (12.783 km)
Old Seward Highway looking south from its intersection with East 70th Avenue, September 2020. The road follows a section line and offers two through lanes in each direction between East 36th Avenue and Huffman Road, a distance of 5.5 miles (8.9 km).

The Old Seward Highway is a nearly 8-mile-long (13 km) former routing of the Seward Highway. The road is located entirely within the corporate limits of Anchorage, with a southern terminus near the Potter Section House, and a northern terminus in the Midtown neighborhood. Both of this highway's termini are points on the Seward Highway. The highway was created in 1951, along with most of the current Seward Highway.

The Old Seward Highway begins at an intersection with Potter Valley Road, less than 500 feet from Potter Valley Road's own terminus with the (new) Seward Highway. From there, Old Seward Highway curves along the east side of Potter Marsh opposite the New Seward Highway (on the west side) before intersecting Rabbit Creek Road, again less than a 1/4 mile from the New Seward Highway, which is at this point a four-lane freeway. From there, Old Seward Highway travels northwest over the New Seward Highway and through the neighborhood of Oceanview. The route bends north, running parallel to the New Seward Highway. The roadway intersects O'Malley Road and continues northward through the Campbell/Taku neighborhood. The road proceeds north into Midtown, traveling through the neighborhood to the highway's northern terminus, an intersection with 33rd Avenue near the Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria. An exit ramp from the New Seward Highway serves as the beginning of the southbound lanes.[24]

The Old Seward Highway was created in 1951, as part of the original routing of the Seward Highway.[13] Beginning in 1976, the state of Alaska designated three projects to reroute a large portion of the Seward Highway. This rerouting would bypass the section of the highway that is now the Old Seward Highway. The final portion of the rerouting was completed in early June 1998.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Seward Historic Preservation Commission. "Community History and Character". City of Seward. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Witt, Jennifer W. (2010). Annual Traffic Volume Report (PDF) (Report) (2008–2009–2010 ed.). Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. pp. III-30–III-31, III-35–III-37. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 30, 2014. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Federal Highway Administration (March 2004). National Highway System: Alaska (PDF) (Map). Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Adderley, Kevin (April 4, 2011). "The National Highway System". Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  5. ^ Weingroff, Richard F. (April 7, 2011). "Interstates in Hawaii: Are We Crazy???". Ask the Rambler. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
  6. ^ United States Congress (1994). "Title 23, Chapter 1, Section 103". United States Code. United States Government Publishing Office. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  7. ^ Rand McNally (2009). "Alaska" (Map). The Road Atlas. 1 in:30 mi. Chicago: Rand McNally. p. 6. §§ F8-G8. ISBN 0-528-94200-X.
  8. ^ a b c Google (March 12, 2012). "Overview Map of Seward Highway" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
  9. ^ Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. Seward Highway Scenic Byway (Map). Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  10. ^ Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation (2006). Official State Travel Map (Map) (2006 ed.). Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. §§ F10–F11.
  11. ^ Federal Highway Administration. "Seward Highway: Driving Directions". America's Byways. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  12. ^ Federal Highway Administration. "Seward Highway: Map" (Map). America's Byways. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  13. ^ a b c d Alaska Historical Society. "October". This Month in Alaska History. Alaska Historical Society. Archived from the original on February 23, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  14. ^ Federal Highway Administration. "Seward Highway: Official Designations". America's Byways. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  15. ^ "Officials Launch Seward Highway Speed Limit Pilot Project". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Associated Press. July 13, 2016. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  16. ^ Central Region. "Seward Highway Milepost 75–90 Rehabilitation Project". Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  17. ^ Central Region. "Proposed Action Mapbook Milepost 75 to 90" (PDF). Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  18. ^ Kelly, Devin (January 19, 2017). "Scenic but Crash-Prone Stretch of Seward Highway Inches Toward Upgrades". Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  19. ^ Hintze, Heather (January 20, 2017). "New Passing Lanes, Bridges Part of Seward Highway Improvement Project". Anchorage, AK: KTVA-TV. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  20. ^ Federal Highway Administration, National Highway System Viewer Archived 2007-08-27 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved August 2007.
  21. ^ Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Routes Archived 2009-07-27 at the Wayback Machine, April 2006
  22. ^ Adventure Cycling Association (June 2011). The United States Bicycle Route System: Corridor Plan (PDF) (Map). Adventure Cycling Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 27, 2009. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
  23. ^ Sullivan, Ginny (May 11, 2011). "It's Official! New U.S. Bicycle Routes Approved". Adventure Cycling Association. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
  24. ^ Google (September 3, 2012). "Overview Map of the Old Seward Highway" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  25. ^ Porco, Peter (June 3, 1998). "Smooth Sailing to South". Anchorage Daily News. p. A1.

External links[edit]

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