DOTPF expanding 'lighting curfew' program beyond Minnesota Drive
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is expanding a money-saving "lighting curfew" program tested during early-morning hours along a South Anchorage corridor.
According to DOTPF spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy, the program has turned off street lights along Minnesota Drive between International Airport Road and Old Seward Highway. The pilot project has saved the department $5,200 in electric costs since it was launched in July 2017, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy's administration has since directed the department to continue looking for cost savings.
The lights are turned off in the early-morning hours when traffic is light. According to McCarthy, an analysis of accident rates during the same period has not shown a significant change.
"This time period between midnight and 5 [a.m.] is about when 5% of the traffic is on the road," McCarthy said. "So it's a little easier for drivers in terms of there's fewer conflicts and it impacts fewer people."
At least three fatal crashes have occurred on the stretch of Minnesota since October, including the March 31 death of 19-year-old Jayson McGuire in the 4:45 a.m. crash of his SUV near O'Malley Road. Julie Attina, 34, died at about 8 a.m. on Jan. 28 after her pickup truck rolled between International and Raspberry roads, and 32-year-old David Hummel Jr. was killed at about 11:30 p.m. Nov. 17 when his SUV struck a light pole and burned near West 100th Avenue.
McCarthy emphasized that the lights along Minnesota would have been on outside the five-hour window of the curfew.
DOTPF plans to keep lights on at "decision points" for drivers, McCarthy said, such as lights at exits and interchanges. The department is also putting reflectors along the sides of roads so drivers can better see where the lane ends, and plans to revisit statistics to ensure there is no impact.
Because of the savings, the department will be expanding the program. McCarthy said the Sterling Highway between Mile 80 and Mile 83 already has darkened lights. Within the year, the light curfew project will also include:
• Glenn Highway - Airport Heights to Parks Highway (34 miles)
• Minnesota Drive - International to Tudor (.6 miles)
• C Street - Tudor to O'Malley, (3.8 miles)
McCarthy said the department expects to save an additional $190,000 in electric costs by expanding the curfew program. She said the savings would be used for additional winter maintenance including more hours for snowplow operators.
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