State hopes to secure site of near-fatal Seward Highway rock fall
Traffic is being diverted near a cliff on the Seward Highway south of Anchorage, where a falling rock nearly killed a man Friday morning.
The call came in at 5 a.m. at Mile 111.3, just south of McHugh Creek. Anchorage police said the driver was in the southbound lane when a rock the size of an ice cooler struck his roof, damaging the vehicle and leaving the driver severely injured.
A GoFundMe account set up for the driver, Jason Carter, said he was an apprentice electrical lineman heading to his job when he was struck. By Friday evening, the account had raised more than $20,000 of a $30,000 goal.
"He was hospitalized and is receiving treatment at Providence (Alaska) Medical Center for head trauma," organizers wrote.
Providence staff said Carter remained in critical condition Friday evening.
Shannon McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF), said rock falls in the area between Potter and Indian are an ongoing hazard, particularly amid this week's warm weather.
"We had a freeze, a really deep freeze; then, all of a sudden, we had 40-degree weather with rain and high winds," she said. "And that's typically when we see rocks coming down."
It isn't just rocks DOTPF is concerned about, it's also falling ice. In 2012 a large chunk of ice slid off a cliff face in the same area, crushing and severely injuring another driver in her pickup truck. That's why motorists are now being rerouted away from the cliff face in areas where ice is prevalent.
"We move traffic away from that, and we do it this time of year," McCarthy said. "We like to keep an eye on it. Temperatures warming like this can really be a problem."
DOTPF is looking for a more permanent fix to secure the cliff face between Mile 104 and Mile 114 of the Seward. That could include putting up mesh netting, adding bolts in the rock or even scaling back the cliffs so they are farther from the road. According to McCarthy, there's funding for the design phase of the project but not the actual work, so it could be a year or two before it's done.
McCarthy says the Seward is safe for now, but drivers should remain alert. She said anyone who sees debris on the road should call 911 so road crews can get it cleaned up as soon as possible.
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