ANCHORAGE - A head-on crash on the Seward Highway just north of Girdwood Sunday sent almost a dozen people to the hospital, including several children.
The injuries were serious but fortunately not fatal. Even so, it's raising a question some have asked for years: What can be done to make the Seward Highway safer to drive?
Winter conditions can make a trip down the Seward Highway pretty frightening. Just ask this driver who spun out on ice, bounced off the guardrail and ended up in the on-coming lane.
“It’s a miracle it wasn’t that serious, but it’s pretty dangerous,” said Miskiuki Taulai.
In just the last three weeks there have been three deaths on the highway, including a Department of Transportation worker who was struck by a car while placing cones at the scene of another accident.
It happened at a blind curve just south of Girdwood that DOT officials said will be one of the first places to receive safety improvements next spring.
“…And that’s going to include passing lanes, flattening out the curve as well as we can with the restraints that we have,” said DOT spokesman Rick Feller.
By sheer numbers the Seward Highway has more crashes in the summer than in the winter, but the truth of the matter is any crash on this highway is likely to be a bad one. That’s because inevitably the cars will hit head on.
The Girdwood fire chief says the only the only way to improve the odds is to expand visibility is a four-lane highway divided by a barrier.
“If they crash on a two-lane highway where they are going head on, you are going to have really, really high closing speeds,” said Chief Bill Chadwick. “They talk about reducing the speed limits, but even if they reduce the speed limits from 55 to 45 miles per hour, you've still got a head-on accident.”
DOT said a two-year study would begin this spring with the goal of eventually making the highway between Anchorage and Girdwood multi-lane.
But one thing is known already: The cost will be high, at least $750 million, and the funding for that is still a big question mark.
The number of fatal accidents on the highway has gone down in recent years but everyone agrees there's a long way to go.
Troopers say one thing that has made a big difference is the REDDI system, where people can call 911 to report dangerous drivers.