Drivers are zooming through construction zones

Published: Jun. 26, 2019 at 6:28 PM AKDT
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When drivers speed through construction zones, it's not just road worker safety that's at risk. Drivers and passengers are at risk, too.

Winding its way past mountains and shorelines, the Seward Highway -- one of Southcentral Alaska's most scenic drives -- is getting a summer face lift.

Built in the 1950s, the highway hasn't had the benefit of major modern updates, Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation told KTUU Tuesday.

This summer, phase one of a project is underway that will replace eight bridges, widen the roadway, and create passing lanes and turn pockets, she said.

While all of the construction takes places, there are faces -- people working as flaggers --- posted around the clock at either end of the construction zone to make sure drivers slow down.

"We find on some of our higher speed corridors, is that people just don't drop their speed enough," McCarthy said.

From mile 75 to mile 90, a corridor just south of the Girdwood turnoff, numerous signs and flags in construction-zone orange send messages that are numerous and clear: Work Zone! Road work! Double fines! Speed zone! But it seems some people aren't getting the not-so-subtle hints.

"I've gotten reports back from the project engineer on multiple occasions that people are just speeding through that area," McCarthy said.

KTUU witnessed it first hand when, after briefly monitoring a section with a radar sign, we saw a few drivers blow through at 16 and 18 miles-per-hour over the posted speed limit.

"That is exactly why there are double fines in construction zones. It's not your normal highway anymore, it's different," Lt. Richard Henning with the Anchorage Police Department's Traffic Unit told KTUU Tuesday.

Fines are one deterrent. But in his view so should be valuing your own safety, and the safety others.

"You have to slow down, pay attention. You don't want construction workers or other traffic injured because you come up to a construction zone and you're ignoring the signs, and you come up at speed and pretty soon, 'Boom!' It's right there in your face and you don't have time to react and something bad happens," Henning said.

"About 25% of the crashes are actually rear-end," McCarthy told KTUU, saying national data reinforces that often, drivers are inattentive and distracted.

Another reason to slow down? Those same national statistics show it's not road workers -- but drivers and passengers -- who are injured the most often in work zone crashes.

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