Crash risks and increased rock fall creates a public safety problem at drainage site
(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) – The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is closing the drainage site at mile 109 on the Seward Highway due to safety concerns. This site is a designated Highway Safety Corridor and was the location of a serious injury and multi-car crash in 2017. The site is in a high-risk rock fall area, is among the top 10 highway risk sites in Alaska, and has experienced multiple rock falls since the Nov. 30 earthquake.
In recent years, the popularity of the site has increased, resulting in illegal parking, risky pedestrian highway crossings and unexpected vehicles maneuvers. DOT&PF receives numerous public complaints about the safety at mile 109 and these concerns are documented in our Annual Safety Corridor Audit (link here). The Seward Highway between Rabbit Creek and Girdwood is a designated Highway Safety Corridor due to the roadway’s high fatal and serious injury crash rate.
The area is known for ongoing rockfall and is classified as the fifth highest rock fall highway risk/hazard area in Alaska. DOT&PF is currently modifying the rock and shoulder at mile 109 to remove access to the drainage site and restrict vehicles from illegally parking on the cliff side of the road. DOT&PF is considering long-term engineering solutions for this area is which may include moving the cliff away from the highway. DOT&PF personnel documented a new rock fall at the site as recently as March 26, 2019.
The water at this location comes from one of several holes DOT&PF drilled in the 1980s to alleviate water pressure and stabilize the rock face. Since the 1980s, members of the public have placed a variety of pipes to collect water into containers. This is not an official public water source; it is not filtered nor is it tested by any regulatory agency to ensure that the water is safe for human consumption. Geologists believe the water is surface runoff from the area above the highway and as such is susceptible to contamination from bacteria, parasites, viruses and other contaminants.