DOT cautions drivers to watch for falling rocks along Seward Highway
The Alaska Department of Transportation is reminding people to be alert for rockfalls on the Seward Highway. DOT spokesperson Jill Reese said the department is receiving weekly, and sometimes daily, reports of rocks falling from the cliffs along the Turnagain Arm.
“Unfortunately, the Seward Highway has a lot of rocks that are loosened that fall at will and there’s really no predicting it,” Reese said.
According to Reese, rockfalls have increased since the Nov. 30 earthquake, especially between miles 104 and 114. That’s the stretch of road Ben Johnson was traveling Thursday night when he was headed out of town to go fishing. Johnson said he was passing mile 113 when he looked up and saw rocks coming down.
“And I saw the rocks coming down off the cliff so I just swerved hard right tried to dodge em,” he said. “And they exploded on the ground next to me and scratched my car up”
Johnson wasn’t hurt and says he’s grateful the damage to his car was confined to dents and scratches.
“I was pretty thankful that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be," he said.
Reese said drivers need to be extra cautious as they navigate that stretch of highway.
“When you see rocks coming down, pull over as fast as you can,” she said. “Stop, don’t try and drive through them, so just be careful on the road.”
Reese says it’s not safe for drivers to get out on the highway and try and clear rocks themselves. Instead, she said rock slides can be reported by calling the Anchorage Police Department's non-emergency number 311. If someone is injured or the situation is dangerous, calling 911 is appropriate.
DOT has begun a long term project to shore up the cliffs and try and keep rocks off the road. Starting Monday for the next two weeks, contractors will be conducting an evaluation of the six or seven spots they’ve identified as most active between miles 104 and 114. Reese says they are looking at different types of mitigation to make the road safer.
“There will be some rocks taken out, you know blasted out,” Reese said. “And there will be some that will be secured with steel rods and then others that will be caught with nets.”
The actual mitigation work won’t start until 2020. Reese says the project will run through the summer and possibly through the summer of 2021 as well.
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