New moose-illuminating lights working well

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Moose-illuminating lights installed on a stretch of the Glenn Highway appear to be doing their job.

The $1.3 million state project put 100 tall lights along a 3-mile stretch of the highway at the Palmer Hay Flats. The lights are designed to help motorists see moose before the animals step into the roadway.

Five moose-vehicle collisions were recorded between late November and early spring when the lights were energized, according to Thomas McDonough, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game.

Five similar accidents were recorded for the same period a year earlier without lights, but the moose population had increased 15 percent over the year, McDonough said.

''Proportionally, the number of hits are definitely down,'' McDonough told the Alaska Journal of Commerce. ''Speaking personally, I can drive with more confidence in the area than before. It was spooky.''

The lights illuminate several yards beyond the highway shoulder, back into the flats where moose congregate.

The stretch of highway ranks as the fifth highest in Alaska for moose-vehicle collisions, according to a study by the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. The state study found that almost all moose-related accidents along the highway occurred at dawn and dusk during late winter to early spring, the seasonal migration for moose.

Between 1989 and 1999, the area along the hay flats has averaged about 10 moose-vehicle collisions a year, McDonough said.

No human fatalities have been recorded.

As many as 250 moose are hit by vehicles in the Matanuska Valley each year, McDonough said.

Moose-vehicle accidents on Alaska's highways are the highest in North America. Statewide, there are about 500 collisions annually, sometimes double that in heavy snowfall years, according to state studies.

The state transportation department has estimated that the lights would reduce moose-vehicle collisions along the hay flats by 70 percent.

Ken Morton, an engineer with the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said it may take a few seasons before that estimate is realized.

According to a memorandum of agreement with the state, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough will pay for the first three years of maintenance of the lighting system, including such things as lamp replacement and pole knockdowns.

The Matanuska Electric Association will fund the first three years of the lighting, estimated at about $15,000 annually.

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