People talking
People gathering
People talking outside
Celebrations at a Distance

hen the local governing body advises residents to “hunker down” to prevent the spread of a virus, how do celebrations happen? In celebrating the opening of the Glenn Highway Eagle River Bridge project, AGC member company HDR Alaska Inc. found a way to do a socially distant ribbon cutting for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, or DOT&PF.

“This was one of those momentous occasions—when do you get to open a new road or bridge?” asks Josie Wilson, director of strategic communications at HDR.

DOT&PF’s roughly $54 million project expanded the southbound Glenn Highway to three lanes and addressed grade-separation issues. Frontage roads and other improvements were also added. Kiewit Corp., an AGC member company, built the project.

Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson for DOT&PF, says the team nicknamed the project “Carzilla,” recognizing the project construction impacts were going to be a monster for the 55,000 commuters and commercial vehicle drivers who use the road daily. When it neared completion, the team held a coloring contest, inviting people in the community to color their own “Carzilla” and earn a spot in the opening-day parade. The parade also included many who played a significant role in the project, along with contractors and subcontractors who made the project happen.

To adhere to guidelines limiting large gatherings, Wilson says the attendee list was kept at fifty. Those who came were invited to drive by and pick up bags that contained project information, masks, and social distancing instructions for the event. One project team member even created custom “Carzilla” masks. Several dignitaries spoke, but attendees were outside, masked, and appropriately distanced, near the speakers’ tent to hear the presentation. Attendees could even remain in their vehicles. Finally, everyone paraded across the bridge, with police vehicles and a fire engine for the inaugural drive. Former state senator Fred Dyson, from Eagle River, who championed the project while rving in the Alaska Legislature, led the way in his Ford Model T.

“During a time of COVID, having a positive event and being able to celebrate this momentous occasion was really wonderful. We had agencies, construction teams, funders, and legislators—what a great, community-supported event. To have such a cross-section of people to come together was pretty phenomenal,” Wilson says.

DOT&PF and HDR Alaska Inc. won a third-place 2020 Aurora Award for Public Service from the Public Relations Society of America, Alaska Chapter for the public outreach conducted related to the Eagle River Bridge project. Information on the project is available at

All photos courtesy of HDR Alaska Inc. and DOT&PF.