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Sterling Highway to get safety corridor label

Posted: Monday, June 22, 2009

In making the long drive to or from Anchorage, many motorists may feel their eyelids getting heavy during a portion of the trip. Some drivers may also exceed the speed limit to get home quicker. And moose crossing the roadway are a frequent occurrence.

These are dangerous situations, so to improve one of the more dicey sections of the drive, several miles along the Sterling Highway will receive a new status next month to make the area safer.

"The Sterling Highway from Mile 83 to Mile 93 will officially be designated as a Highway Safety Corridor on Wednesday, July 1, 2009," said Beth Ipsen, public information officer with the Alaska State Troopers.

The Sterling Highway section -- which roughly runs from just west of the Moose River to Mackey Lake Road -- is one of two new Highway Safety Corridors established by the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities in an attempt to curb fatal collisions and major injury collisions.

The other is the Knik-Goose Bay Road from Mile 0.6 to Mile 17, which will also be will officially designated as a Highway Safety Corridor that same day.

Public Safety and DOT will be working to educate the public of the change in the days leading up to the shift, according to Ipsen.

"Road crews are already out along the two stretches of highway doing prep work for sign installation. Public Service Announcements are also going out to television and radio stations," she said, the latter being part of the Road Wise AK Campaign being conducted by the Bureau of Highway Patrol.

The Alaska State Troopers -- both patrol troopers and Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol troopers -- will provide focused traffic enforcement in these select areas to help increase motorists' awareness of the new Highway Safety Corridors, Ipsen said.

"Starting on July 1, 2009, all fines within the Highway Safety Corridors will also be double the normal traffic fines," she added.

As to the reason for selecting these roads as Highway Safety Corridors, Ipsen said it was due to the frequency of fatal and major injury collisions over time.

"According to surveys by the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities for the past 30 years, from 1977 to 2007, this 10-mile section of (the Sterling) Highway has had 27 accidents with 32 fatalities. There have also been 91 major injury accidents during that same time. And, judging the last few years of the data, it seems like the rate is going up," she said.

Nationally, according to Ipsen, trends show that the creation of Highway Safety Corridors has reduced the number of fatal and major injury collisions within the designated corridors.

The new designations bring the total number of Highway Safety Corridors in the state up to four. The two existing corridors are the Seward Highway from Mile 87 to Mile 117 and the Parks Highway from Mile 44.5 to Mile 53.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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