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Glenn Highway expanding to three lanes near Eagle River

By Alexis Fernandez Photojournalist: John Thain - 5:24 PM July 29, 2014

A major artery connecting Anchorage to the Mat-Su Valley is about to get wider.

For Eagle River resident Carolyn Ellis, the commute into Anchorage is part of everyday life. But that doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable.

“It’s just such a pain because it gets so jammed up all the time,” Ellis said.

It’s especially an issue near Hiland Road in an area known as “Brake Light Hill.”

“It’s like a snake going down there; you can just see all of the tail lights all lit up as you’re going down,” she said.

Over the years, it’s lived up to its reputation.

“When you have inclement weather, people want to slow down, and then you have that steep grade, so it can be a little treacherous if it is slippery and people are hitting their brakes, and you know they can fishtail,” said Shannon McCarthy, a spokesperson with the Alaska Department of Transportation.

This drive is about to change for 52,000 drivers who commute through this area each day.

In a couple of weeks, DOT crews will begin work on a the $42.5 million state-funded Glenn Highway Capacity Improvement Project.

The first phase: constructing a new three-mile, three-lane highway heading north between Hiland Road and Artillery Road.

“This project will actually flatten that grade out and create a new bridge over Eagle River,” McCarthy said.

The old section of the highway will become frontage road connecting the Hiland area to VFW Road.

“Many people are getting off at Eagle River, so it will be a huge improvement in terms of folks’ daily commute and safety improvement,” she said.

Although the bulk of construction won’t begin until next year, groundwork will begin in August.

“What you’re going to see is a lot of clearing — that area between the north and southbound lanes will be cleared and there will be some excavation, and then they will start working on the new bridge,” McCarthy said.

Some of that work will include clearing 20 acres of trees on an island in the middle of the highway. There will, however, be no road closures this year.

For Ellis, it’s a drive she’s looking forward to.

“Just to open it up more, to save time on commuting so much every day,” Ellis said.

The first phase of the project will be completed by fall of 2015.

Once the state approves additional funding, crews will begin work on the expansion of the southbound lane.

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