Highway safety could be affected if proposed cuts to the Department of Transportation budget are enacted by the Legislature.
Currently, the department is working to clear brush and trees from the right of way along an overgrown stretch of the Sterling Highway in the Cooper Landing area. Clearing the right of way is important, especially during the summer driving season when larger vehicles such as motor homes and vehicles pulling boat trailers are active on the highways, according to Carl High, DOT's Kenai Peninsula district roads superintendent.
"We're doing it to reduce accidents and improve public safety," High said. He noted that the area has a lot of limited-visibility areas where there is a need for work to be done.
Clearing the right of way is important to highway safety, especially during the summer driving season when larger vehicles such as motor homes and vehicles pulling boat trailers are on the roads, High said.
High said the department is using hydroaxes -- large brush cutting machines -- to go in and take out trees and other vegetation along the right of way. This will allow motorists to see longer distances and have a clearer view of oncoming traffic.
The need for the work is long overdue, High said.
"The whole area up there hasn't been maintained. There's a lot of accident history (in the area)," he said.
High said it was decided to do the work in the Cooper Landing area after he and an Alaska State Trooper surveyed the area earlier this year.
"I made a run up there with a trooper. From that, we made some joint recommendations on how to improve it. This will open up the right of way," he said.
The area being worked on is located roughly between Mile 43 on the Sterling Highway and Skilak Loop. Work will continue for the next couple of weeks, High said. After that, the hydroaxes will have to be removed because they operate on top of a layer of snow and ice.
High said that once the work is done, motorists won't really notice anything other than improved visibility when summer arrives.
"It looks a little rough right now, but when spring comes the grass will cover that all up," he said.
High said he doesn't know what projects the department will be working on this summer. He said he hopes to bring in some volunteer workers to further clear areas and improve safety, but impending budget cuts make forecasting other summer maintenance projects impossible at this point.
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