(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) – The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is targeting problematic conditions along Southcentral’s high-speed rural highways in the Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Kenai Peninsula areas to increase safety for Alaskans. A region-wide effort to remove selected trees in higher crash areas is underway.
Each year, DOT&PF highway safety engineers evaluate high-speed corridors throughout the region for factors that contribute to serious injuries and fatalities. In 2015, they identified a concerning pattern of collisions with trees along Alaska’s high-speed rural routes. Collisions with trees in the “clear zone” were reported in 346 crashes over a five-year study period. In modern highway design, it is desirable for the area immediately surrounding the roadway to be free of substantial obstacles to allow the driver to recover safely, if they leave the roadway for any reason. This is especially important on higher speed roads, downhill grades and on the outside of curves. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), over half of the nation’s fatal crashes are associated with roadway departures.
The department requested FHWA approval of a Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) project to address these conditions with federal highway funding. The project focuses on areas identified with trees that are obstructions in the “clear zone,” are contributing to shading on the roadways and are interfering with the driver’s ability to see conditions ahead.
This effort differs from, and is in addition to, the department’s recurring brush cutting maintenance activities, as it targets for removal only specific trees or groups of trees. The $1.9 million federally funded contract is underway and will conclude in September. The contractor is working in several areas, including the Sterling Highway between Mile 105 and Kelly Drive and the Glenn Highway between Chugiak to Mile 23. They will be starting work along the Parks Highway next week.