McCarthy Road Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Study

The Federal Highway Administration - Western Federal Lands (WFL) Highway Division, in partnership with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and the National Park Service (NPS), are working together to conduct a corridor study along the McCarthy Road.

Thank you for taking the time to visit the McCarthy Road Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Study website. This study will identify transportation-related improvements for the McCarthy Road corridor. This could include improvements related to road condition and drainage issues, hazards such as landslides, and bridges and culverts. Enhancements related to visitor and recreation access will also be considered. The study corridor extends 60 miles from the eastern end of Chitina to the Kennicott River, and another four miles to the southern end of the Kennicott subdivision.

Be a part of the study!

We are hosting in-person public open houses to share information related to potential solutions under consideration during this phase of the study.


Tuesday, July 30

9 to 11am

School District Office


Tuesday, July 30

6 to 8pm

Chitina Community Hall


Wednesday, July 31

6 to 8pm

McCarthy EMS Hall

Project No. AK FLAP DOT 198(4)


Over the years, residents and visitors have provided feedback that calls for the need to improve the reliability of access and public safety along the McCarthy Road Corridor. In response, the Federal Highway Administration - Western Federal Lands (WFL) Highway Division partnered with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and the National Park Service (NPS) to prepare the McCarthy Road PEL study. The study is funded through the Federal Lands Access Program.


McCarthy study team and community meet-and-greet in June 2023


Chitina study team and community meet-and-greet in June 2023

The PEL framework encourages decision-makers to incorporate environmental considerations, community, and economic goals early in the transportation planning process. Through a PEL process, this study will:


The McCarthy Road PEL study will have two outcomes:

A framework that identifies prioritized transportation-related projects along the McCarthy Road, and a plan to complete those projects.
Bring together stakeholders and users of the McCarthy Road to improve communication and build relationships to identify transportation and access needs.

Public and stakeholder involvement will be integrated throughout the PEL process. Stakeholders, such as the DOT&PF, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Ahtna, local businesses, and the public will come together to identify current and future needs within the study area. WFL will consult directly with Native Village of Chitina.


The Road

McCarthy Road Fast Facts


Main Access

The McCarthy Road is the main overland access into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.



Approximately 100 people live in the Chitina area, 100 people live in the McCarthy area year-round, and at least a dozen families within the road corridor in-between.

Daily Vehicles

Daily Vehicles

Historic annual average daily traffic on the McCarthy Road (at Chitina) is 205 vehicles.

Peak Vehicles

Peak Vehicles

During the peak season, average daily traffic jumps to 400 vehicles.

Road Maintenance

Road Maintenance

The road is owned by DOT&PF and maintained seasonally from May 15 to October 1.


The PEL Study started in Summer 2023 and will be completed in Summer 2025. The PEL process and study will be done in partnership with Native organizations, the public, stakeholders, and federal and state resource agencies.

Timeline Graphic FINAL 110923

Get Involved

Be a part of the study! Public meetings will be held during each phase of the study:

Our next public meetings are an opportunity to help identify and prioritize potential solutions.

In-person public meetings:


Tuesday, July 30

9 to 11am

Location: Copper River School District Office Conference Room, 1967 Aurora Drive


Tuesday, July 30

6 to 8pm

Location: Chitina Community Hall, off the Edgerton Highway


Wednesday, July 31

6 to 8pm

Location: The new McCarthy EMS Hall

In addition to the in-person events, our online open house is available until August 25, 2024. To learn more about this phase of the project and provide your feedback [LINK COMING SOON].

Stay up-to-date with project news and ways to engage.

Click here to join our mailing list

    Project Advisory Committee (PAC) Formation

    The McCarthy Road PAC will meet throughout the study to provide guidance and input. The PAC consists of representatives from DOT&PF, NPS, Native Village of Chitina, Ahtna, local residents, and organizations representing tourism, economic development, and regional planning organizations.

    Previous Engagement

    The goal of the first round of public engagement was to identify needs and opportunities along the McCarthy Road corridor. The first of the project’s three public meetings was held as an online open house, available from November 29, 2023, to January 10, 2024. Prior to the online open house, the team hosted the first PAC meeting on November 16, 2023, and launched a project website. We also held an informal study team meet-and-greet with the public in Chitina and McCarthy in June 2023.

    The first online open house allowed for public comments to be gathered in multiple ways, including an interactive mapping tool that allowed visitors to tag their comments to specific locations along the study corridor. The online open house also contained a link to a poll intended to solicit more detailed input on corridor vision, purpose statement, and goals.

    More than 300 comments were collected throughout the first engagement period. Popular comment themes included:

    • Access (e.g., road reliability, parking, bridge access)
    • Road design and road character
    • Bridge condition (e.g., Gilahina, Kennicott River)
    • Road condition/maintenance (e.g., drainage, culverts, chip seal, glaciation, brush clearing, sight distance, potholes, erosion, winter maintenance)
    • Hazards (e.g., landslide, avalanche, bluffs)
    • Safety (e.g., speeding, emergency services)
    • Community considerations and economic development
    • PEL process
    • Visitor experience (e.g., pullouts, waysides, signage)
    • Recreation opportunities (e.g., trails, lake access, boat ramp)
    • Multi-modal accommodation (i.e., bicyclists, pedestrians)

    A detailed report on the first round of engagement can be viewed here.

    Contact Us

    Federal Highway Administration – Western Federal Lands, Highway Division

    Seth English-Young, Planning Team Lead


    (360) 619-7803

    Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

    Paul Eckman, DOT&PF Northern Region Design Engineer


    (907) 451-2275

    National Park Service

    Joshua Scott, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Chief of Lands & Planning


    (907) 822-7243


    Leslie Robbins, Project Manager


    Kim Wetzel, Public Involvement Lead


    (90seven) 440-1591

    To request accommodations for persons with disabilities, information in alternate formats, or to request interpretation

    Contact Kim Wetzel at (90seven) 440-159one or kim.wetzel@jacobs.com.