State seeks design input as KGB expansion project moves forward
A road construction project to improve safety on the Knik-Goose Bay Road is still two years away, but the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) wants the public’s input to fine-tune the design.
Dozens of people showed up to get a look at the plans at an open house Thursday night.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough reports the Knik-Fairview area is the fastest-growing in the Mat-Su, and the two-lane road can no long keep up with the traffic.
DOTPF project manager Tom Schmid said up to 20,000 cars a day travel the busiest sections.
“Really a two-lane highway, if it’s going to operate efficiently, is going to be almost half of that,” he said.
Commuters said the chronic congestion causes concerning behavior, especially during rush hour.
“There's too many people coming on and off,” said Tanya Scott, who lives near Mile 11. “And you have to zip in because there’s so much traffic there’s not a space to get in. So you have to jump in real fast.”
The darting in and out of the road is what Alaska State Trooper Howie Peterson calls, “a classic KGB move.” On a recent ride-along, he said the road is so clogged with cars, troopers have trouble finding a safe place to pull people over.
“I am just worried about getting hit by another car, like rear-ended, because there’s not enough room this road,” Peterson said.
DOTPF traffic engineers have been working on short-term fixes, like installing more signage and turn lanes to make it less treacherous. One engineer, Scott Thomas, said the Three Bears grocery store worked with the state to help build a turn lane on a nearby straightaway.
“It is an area where there were a lot of serious crashes and fatalities,” Thomas said.
DOTPF statistics show deadly car crashes have plagued KGB for years. So far this year there’s been one death on the road; 2018 was the deadliest year on record, with four lives lost.
The long-term plan to improve safety is to widen the road to four lanes with a depressed median, similar to the recent expansion project on the Parks Highway north of Wasilla.
“It will solve a lot of crashes and congestion on this road, beyond the interim fixes we’ve been able to do,” Thomas said.
Construction won’t begin on phase one until 2021 at the earliest. Schmid said it could be 2025 until the entire project is complete. DOTPF's next public meeting will be at the Mat-Su Transportation Fair later this fall.
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