Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

81 A variety of actors have a stake in addressing this issue and its economic consequences. The Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service (NPS) are involved at the national level, while at the state level the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities plays a key role. Public and private corporations, like the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (APSC) and the Alaska Railroad Corporation, also have direct interests. Each of these actors has acknowledged the gravity of the current situation. That said, with the current budget deficit and cuts in public infrastructure funds in Alaska, there is a question of how these entities are going to tackle the impacts and continue to support sustainable infrastructure development in the face of increased costs of building and maintaining infrastructure built over permafrost. Case Studies The outcomes of permafrost thaw can be studied by closely examining certain types of damages in different areas of infrastructure that are representative of the state’s overall problem. In this section, I look at the Denali Park Road and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) for what they reveal about melting permafrost consequences. Denali Park Road Denali National Park and Preserve is in the central part of the Alaska Range, about halfway between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The Denali Park Road is the sole road in the park, extending 92 miles, running generally east to west. The road provides access to tourist attractions, such as scenic views of the mountains, and is a way to spot wildlife in the park. NPS reported that more than 600,000 visitors accessed the park in 2017 (U.S. NPS, 2022). So, the park road is crucial to sustaining the tourism industry in and around Denali National Park. Like much of central Alaska, many parts of Denali National Park lie on top of permafrost. In recent years, the near-surface permafrost, located in the top 1 meter, is starting to thaw. According to a study from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the percentage of near-surface permafrost in Denali National Park has been reduced from 75% to 50% from the 1970s to the 2000s. The study estimated that by 2090, Denali National Park will lose most of its permafrost (Pope, 2021). The permafrost thaw in the park is worsening the conditions on the park road, with the Pretty Rocks Landslide the most recent representation. The Pretty Rocks Landslide has been active since the 1960s, but the pace of deterioration has been exponentially increasing. Until two years ago, the road required maintenance once every two or three years. However, in recent years, the frequency has accelerated. In 2021, the NPS reported up to 15.5 inches of movement in a single day, which forced authorities to shut down the park road. Executive director of the Denali Chamber of Commerce Vanessa Jusczak stated that for one community of 2000 people near the park, the economic impact due to the shutdown was in “double digit millions of dollars” (Chow, 2021). In 2019, Denali National Park generated 7490 jobs and $874M in economic output, revealing just how vital the tourism industry is for the communities that surround the park. The park planned for roughly half to be shut down to tourists in 2022 due to landslides caused by permafrost melting. Any such long-term shutdown will have serious consequences for the local economy (U.S. NPS, 2022). The NPS has been temporarily “fixing” the issue by bringing in hundreds of dump truck loads of gravel every week to offset the movement and keep the road open. However, this solution is short term and does not address the problem worsening over time. NPS authorities are also exploring other options, such as looking into engineered solutions, including a bridge or a possible reroute. If rerouted, the road would require construction along approximately six miles of federally designated wildlife area. Alaska’s permitting process is complicated and usually consists of extensive environmental review and public participation. The appointed start date for construction of a bridge was set for 2023, but the project still has not received funding. While current issues are being addressed, scientists in the park also are working with Central Alaska and Arctic Inventory and Monitoring Networks to obtain as much data as possible to prepare for long-term changes. In addition, Denali National Park participates in the Unstable Slope Management Program for Federal Land Management Agencies and works with the US Geological