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DOT hosts mobile meetings about Sterling Highway

Posted: July 29, 2013 - 8:18pm
Photo by Will Morrow The Department of Transportation is seeking public input to improve safety along the Sterling Highway between Sterling and Soldotna.
Photo by Will Morrow The Department of Transportation is seeking public input to improve safety along the Sterling Highway between Sterling and Soldotna.

The 10.99-mile stretch of the Sterling Highway between Soldotna and Sterling has seen 32 fatal accidents and 85 major injury accidents in the past 35 years.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is working to create and implement a plan decrease these numbers.

In 2009 this section of road was designated as a highway safety corridor because of its high number of fatal and serious injury crashes. The segment of highway between Soldotna and Sterling is one of four designated corridors the DOT is working to make safer. Since becoming a safety corridor, law enforcement has been increased, speed limits have been reduced and there has been more signage. With no fatalities since the inception of the Sterling Highway safety corridor, these changes have proved to decrease accidents, but DOT wants to improve safety further.

The preferred solution DOT suggests is to make that segment of road a four-lane divided highway, but there are still a lot of considerations that need to be verified, Anne Brooks, public involvement coordinator, said. The department needs to ensure there is adequate right of way, analyze crash data and consider public input — all part of phase one of the project.

The department decided to try a new method to connect with people about the accident issue for the Sterling Highway. Instead of finding a venue and putting researchers in hotel rooms for a few days of information gathering, Brooks and Associates, hired by the DOT to provide technical support for the project, rented an RV and setup “mobile meetings.”

On July 22, Brooks and Camden Yehle, public involvement associate, parked the RV at Fred Meyer in Soldotna in the morning and Safeway in the afternoon.

In Sterling they met with interested people at the post office and the community center on Tuesday. Brooks said she figures the duo talked to 150 people over the two-day event.

“People are passionate about that roadway because they’ve had near misses,” Brooks said.

Brooks said they heard “lots of great feedback” in Soldotna and Sterling. She said some people have been very receptive to the idea of a four-lane highway divided by a median with a break every one half to one mile. Others, especially business and property owners along the highway have been a little less enthusiastic about the four-lane solution. Their concern is not only will they maybe have to drive the highway in the opposite direction of their destination until a median break where they can make a U-turn, but customers may have to do the same.

Another concern raised was how will bikers, ATV riders, runner and walkers be accommodated. Brooks said DOT has existing right of way along the highway, and the department hopes to be able to expand within the those lines, but will consider alternative options based on safety and cost.

With 21 of the 32 fatal accidents between 1977 and 2012 resulting from head-on collisions, Brooks said medians would help prevent those types of accidents.

Brooks said she received a lot of comments on the Mackey Lake Road intersection, a hilltop intersection where DOT put in left turn lanes. She said many people suggested putting left turns at other busy intersections like Forest Lane and Jim Dahler Road. Brooks said if the funding is available and depending on what the priorities throughout Alaska for traffic safety are, left turn lanes at that intersection may be a possibility.

Other people suggested reducing speeds among other temporary safety solutions before the ultimate project begins, which is a few years away from construction.

Phase one of the project is scheduled to be completed in November. Brooks said people can continue to comment on the project’s website, or the DOT Facebook page.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at

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spwright 07/30/13 - 08:30 am
More Trooper Highway Patrol

7/30/13 There is already a Proven Solution to this problem.


The most immediate & effective method to change the Bad Behavior of Alaska Drivers is the sight of a ALASKA STATE TROOPER vehicle. It works immediately.


northernlights 07/31/13 - 09:30 am
spwright, you said it!

Roads don't kill people, its reckless drivers. Why spend thousands of dollars to fix a road that doesn't need to be fixed, get more troopers. Does anyone remember what the sterling hwy was like before they made it a two lane hwy. Going to Anchorage, especially in the winter was scary in places because the road was so narrow and windy. There was hardly any wrecks back then because the road made you drive slow and cautious. Now that its improved, people drive faster and more accidents. We have more wrecks when the reds hit the rivers, Anchorage residents drive down by the hoards as fast as they can. We need troopers! Stop wasting money on improving the roads. A better road will not make a better driver.

Seafarer 07/31/13 - 01:58 pm
Spend The Money...

While you're at it DOT, how about a light at the Safeway/Binkley Intersection? Talk about an accident waiting to happen!

I also believe in lowering speeds to 45 in the Winter. Of course, no one but me will do that so why even try.

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 07/31/13 - 11:32 pm
Safer roads

Northernlights, I've been here through most of the highway improvements on the Sterling and Seward highways (36 years) and drove both highwys frequently in the 70's and 80's. There were as many if not more accidents per capita as there are now. More people equates to more accidents. Summer traffic only increases the odds of an accident not only due to increased traffic, but whom those drivers are. More tourism means not only more traffic, but more sight seers. I've seen motor homes stopped on the shoulder in very poor places causing hazardous driving conditions. Or traffic moving at a crawl (10 - 15 mph under the posted speed limit) which breeds impatient (reckless) drivers.
Divided highways statistically lower the instance of accidents and fatalities. The interstate system is probably the best example of this statistic. Cumalatively, the interstate produces 60% fewer fatalities than the rest of the American road system. Most (80%+) fatalities on the interstate occur in urban areas. Most accidents on state and county roads (70+%) happen in rural areas.
You are correct in your assertion of "better roads will not make better drivers." However, better, more well designed roads reduce the chances of interaction with poorer, less skilled or thoughtless drivers. Not simply a four lane highway, but a four lane highway with a median or barrier dividing the traffic directions.
It will take a combination of improved roads, better driver awareness and an increased presence of law enforcement to make our highways safer.

spwright 08/01/13 - 07:45 am
Bad Behavior

8/1/13 IF ya wanna see my point about a ALASKA STATE TROOPER vehicle.

Park a Vacant State Trooper Vehicle w/ No One inside of that vehicle along the shoulder of the road. Then witness the immediate & effective results of the location of that vehicle.

The Bad Behavior of Drivers IMMEDIATELY improves when that State Trooper Vehicle is within sight.

& Yes SVP is correct, a concrete divider between the two directions of Travel would immediately SAVE LIVES.
Drive in any City in the Lower 48 & You will see these concrete dividers to separate the traffic. SPW

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 08/01/13 - 03:04 pm

"The Bad Behavior of Drivers IMMEDIATELY improves when that State Trooper Vehicle is within sight." That's just the problem! The behavior changes immediately within sight of the trooper, but reverts back once the trooper is out of sight. But you do have a point! People drive more carefully in the "safety" corridor not because of the safety factor and saving an accident or fatality, but because it will cost them double points and double fines. Why not just make the entire state a "safety corridor?"

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