DOT and Kenai talk Spur Highway improvements

Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities officials met Tuesday with Kenai City Council to discuss planned, state-funded upgrades to the Kenai Spur Highway in effort to reduce accidents and improve traffic flow.

The crash rate for the 5.3-mile section of highway between Swires Road and Sports Lake Road is 50 percent greater than the state-wide average, according to a 2013 DOT&PF draft reconnaissance document. The highway section, from 2000 to 2009, saw 397 vehicle accidents, according to the document.

Traffic flow is another concern, particularity from Beaver Loop Road to Sports Lake Road and Swires Road to Beaver Loop Road. In 2010, an average of 11,500 vehicles per day drove between Beaver Loop Road and Sports Lake Road, and, on a daily average, 9,450 vehicles drove between Swires Road and Beaver Loop Road, according to the document.

The project document outlines five options for reducing highway collisions and improving traffic flow. The options range from $10.2 million to $69.7 million, according to the document. DOT&PF will fund the project.

Construction is slated for 2015, according to the document.

Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said the project’s first step is addressing vehicle collisions — and 158 of the collisions, according to the document, were caused by moose and other animals.

DOT&PF is considering installing an estimated $4 million to $6 million in lights along the section of highway to reduce moose collisions, Koch said. The instillation of lights and road-side clearing of moose browse would cost an estimated $9 million, he said.

The department had previously considered installing fencing along the highway’s corridor to cage moose from the road, Koch said. But moose could slip onto the highway via the 27 streets and 55 driveways intersecting the roadway, according to the document.

Traffic flow is projected to increase 46 percent by 2035 between Beaver Loop Road and Sports Lake Road. Between Swires Road and Beaver Loop Road, traffic flow by the same year is anticipated to increase by 38 percent, according to the document.

Without action, in 2035 between Beaver Loop Road and Sports Lake Road traffic is projected to be stop-and-go, according to the document.

The five options to improve traffic and reduce animal collisions range from building left-turn lanes and constructing three-, four- and five-lane sections of the highway, according to the document.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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