Deadliest year on KGB Road in a decade
Preliminary data from the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) shows 2018 has been the deadliest year on Knik-Goose Bay Road since it became a safety corridor in 2009.
Five people have died including two motorcyclists last week.
DOT has added several short-term safety measures to the road while engineers work on a massive expansion project.
Within the past year, they’ve painted wider stripes to slow down traffic, stenciled the speed limit on the pavement and installed more speed and warning signs.
Still, many drivers still have a story or two to tell about near misses and bad drivers.
“He couldn’t stop for a car that decided to turn here on Country so he took off-roading and went out the Rib Shack driveway,” said Jack Lacy Jr. who drives KGB every day to deliver newspapers.
As more people move to the Mat-Su Valley, many are choosing to make their home in the KGB area, which means increased traffic.
Statistics from DOT show in 2008 the average number of vehicles that traveled on KGB from Vine to Settlers Bay was around 7,800.
Last year, it reached more than 10,000.
“What we’re seeing is extreme impatience,” said Lt. Tom Dunn with Alaska State Troopers. “People are following way too close, people are quick to pull out in front of other cars because they want to get out because of the long streams of traffic.”
That impatience is leading to more deaths on the road. After DOT designated KGB a safety corridor, there was only one fatal crash in the following six years. This year there have been five fatalities.
Troopers said they try to patrol the area as much as they can but even that is difficult to do safely with the high volume of cars.
“When we’re stopping cars in there, they’re passing within six inches of our car, largely because of the congestion and needing to get by,” Lt. Dunn said. “Plus you have people looking to see what’s going on so now the eyes are not on the roadway, they’re on us and increasing the safety risk that’s already there.”
DOT has an expansion project in the works to alleviate the congestion.
The state-funded project includes $22 million to turn a 1.3-mile stretch from Commadore Lane to Settlers Bay into four lanes with a depressed median with added stop lights and turn lanes.
There’s a $100 million federally-funded project to do the same work to the first seven miles of KGB as well.
“By moving the traffic over into the turn projects, it moves it out of the through traffic way so it should flow, it will flow a lot better,” said project manager Tom Schmid.
Schmid said a project of this magnitude can take up to 10 years though. Not only does DOT have to buy all of the land from current property owners, they also have to move two major substations.
“We’d like to wave a magic wand and be able to do things but they take time because they have impacts to utilities that service your house. We need to acquire the right-of-way. All that takes time,” Schmid said.
Construction on the state project won’t begin until late 2020; the federal portion isn’t scheduled until 2021.
Drivers urge others on the road to have patience until then.
“People just need to use more common sense. The adage that speed kills. Well, ignorance kills too,” Lacy Jr. said.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.
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