Summertime is construction season in Alaska, and while no one can yet predict what the tourist season holds, Alaska's highways are already heavily used, even before the influx of independent travelers.
There are some places where substantial traffic--and sometimes road conditions--make it more hazardous for drivers to traverse. As a result, Alaska's Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) has established Safety Corridors in areas with a higher than average incidence of fatal and serious injury crashes. DOT&PF is also responsible for overseeing the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), which identifies and funds a wide variety of highway safety projects with the goal of saving lives and reducing injuries.
Alaska has four designated Safety Corridors, including the Seward Highway, Parks Highway, Knik/Goose Bay Road, and the Sterling Highway. As a result of this designation, the Commissioners of Transportation & Public Facilities and Public Safety agree to provide funding for effective education, enforcement, and engineering, as well as support emergency response agencies for those sections of road.
"Back when these four highways were designated as Safety Corridors, they occupied the top four spots as the most serious crash areas in Alaska," explains Scott Thomas, a traffic and safety engineer for DOT&PF's Central Region Traffic, Safety, and Utilities Section. "Since the program started, three of them--Seward, Parks, and Sterling--now rank 7, 8, and 9. But we can't let up; these areas still need policing and media attention, as well as infrastructure improvements."
This year, work will continue on the Seward Highway on the Bird to Indian Rehabilitation project, which includes paving 5 miles of road and widening sections to create left-turn lanes. The project, which is expected to take at least two seasons to complete, is budgeted at more than $30 million.
"We're also working on three emergency rock fall projects, cutting back loose rocks in thirteen locations from Indian to Anchorage, and that's expected to take multiple summers to complete," says Thomas of the $20 million project. "It's slow work because we have to close the road when we're doing it, so it will also impact traffic."
DOT&PF is continuing work on the $100 million Girdwood to Ingram Creek project on Turnagain Arm, widening the road and creating passing lanes.
On the Parks Highway, the $50 million Pittman Road to Big Lake Road project is expected to start in mid- to...