Department of Transportation to begin Safer Seward Highway Project
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on a massive highway improvement project between Rabbit Creek and Bird Flats.
Although construction is still likely three or four years away, the DOT is beginning engineering and environmental studies which will ultimately lead to long-term permanent highway improvements in the 20-mile stretch of highway.
Shannon McCarthy, communications director for the DOT, said crash rates between Anchorage and Girdwood have gone down since that section of the road was designated as a Traffic Safety Corridor back in 2006. But McCarthy said serious injury and fatal crashes have remained stubbornly high. In addition to figuring out how to help traffic flow more safely, they are also looking at improving access to the places people like to stop along the way.
“For instance, we know that there’s some areas that are good for beluga viewing when they are there, that are good for rock climbing, for instance, there’s some really popular areas, so we want to be mindful of those resources and think about how to get people on and off the highway safely there,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said safety features could include things like additional waysides, turn lanes, and adding exit and entrance ramps to pullouts and parking lots. Re-engineering the road could include making it into a four-lane divided highway. McCarthy said initial cost estimates are around $800 million with the hope that the federal government would pick up 90% of the cost.
Katherine Wood, with the engineering consulting firm HDR, which is doing some of the work, said it’s important for the public to weigh in as the plan begins to take shape.
“We want to hear ideas to solve the safety issues,” Wood said. “So if there’s thoughts that they have, we really need you to do this here or make a turnout, even engineering ideas, we’d love to hear them.”
She said they also want to know which environmental issues should be studied.
“We know a lot of the environmental resources in the area but if there’s something that someone really values about the corridor, they want to make sure we pay attention to, we need to hear that,” Wood said.
Wood said they are also interested in ideas people may have to mitigate impacts on wildlife or other areas along the highway.
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