FAIRBANKS—Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race organizers officially unveiled their new Plan B for the restart location on Monday.
The new route moves the starting line several hundred feet, from the Chena River just north of Pike's Waterfront Lodge to Hoselton Road just south of the lodge.
Mushers will travel through the Pike's parking lot and connect with Dale Road, which they'll follow for about 1 mile before turning north onto Broadmoor Avenue. From there, mushers will travel about one-half mile up Broadmoor and jump onto the Chena, on which they'll ride the remaining few miles to the Tanana River.
Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley and Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins conducted a news conference Monday to explain the new route and the traffic logistics associated with it. Hooley and Hopkins said the change has made the spectator shuttles even more vital to the start's success.
"It's important, from a traffic standpoint we are strongly recommending, strongly encouraging, people to take advantage of the shuttle system," Hooley said. "There is just not the on-site parking that is needed to accommodate the size of the crowd that we're going to have."
Hopkins, who had been urging spectators to take the shuttles since it was first announced the restart would move to Fairbanks from Anchorage, said that necessity has become even more important now, in part because starting on the road has cut out some of the parking they had planned on providing.
The Pike's hotel parking that had been available will now be filled primarily with dog trucks. Access to the starting area for private vehicles will be largely blocked.
Though Hopkins and Hooley took most of their time talking about the "how" of the race reroute rather than the "why," the pair took some time to address the reasons for the chosen location.
Warm weather over the last two weeks contributed to the thinning of ice on the Chena and the opening of leads where the start was planned. Hopkins and Hooley said that, though the river looked good earlier in February, by Monday it was clear the area right near Pike's Landing would not be usable.
Hooley said he has heard desires from some to have the race start downtown but said such a start would not be feasible for several reasons. First, mushers would not be able to travel downstream on the Chena because of the open water past the power plant. Second, if the start directed mushers upstream and had them follow the Iron Dog course as some have suggested, it would add something like 50 miles to the race, according to Hooley.
Hooley said that, though 50 miles may not sound significant to some, it would throw off the timing of a race that was already bumped back a day to accommodate the Fairbanks restart.
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.