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4 mile stretch of Glenn Highway receives median barriers

The barrier type chosen for the project will have the least impact on wildlife in the area
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:04 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Matanuska-Susitna Borough commuters noticed a change of scenery recently in the Palmer Hay Flats area after the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities installed high-tension cable barriers in the median between the north and southbound lanes.

The four-lane stretch of road was nominated for a Highway Safety Improvement Program in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration to reduce head-on collisions if a vehicle were to cross the median. A study conducted between 2008 and 2012 recorded 142 crashes in the area, eight of which resulted in major injury.

The project started last summer when the department completed some drainage work before paving parts of the median. Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Spokesperson Jill Reese believes residents assumed the newly paved areas were pullouts for vehicles.

“This spring when the project restarted and the cables started going in it was a surprise,” Reese said. “People were unsure what was going on and what the purpose of the cables were.”

The high-tension cable fencing runs from the Knik River bridge to the Parks Highway interchange.
The high-tension cable fencing runs from the Knik River bridge to the Parks Highway interchange.

The median barriers are the first of their kind in Alaska. Different styles of barriers were evaluated by a project design team that coordinated with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to determine potential impacts on wildlife movement in the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge.

Ultimately, the high-tension cable fencing was chosen over traditional guardrails and concrete barriers — which were estimated to cost of $9,617,000 in 2017 — because they were determined to have the least impact on wildlife while maintaining the safety goal of the project. It’s still unclear whether the fencing will cause an issue with snow clearing operations during the winter months.

“We’re going to be seeing how they work with our maintenance activities this winter before we decide whether to expand them into different areas of the state,” Reese stated.

If the barriers do not cause any issues with snow removal, DOT will be looking to install more across the state. The cost for the four-mile stretch of high-tension cable barriers was $2,046,000.

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