ANCHORAGE, Alaska—For visitors driving through town, Anchorage may be the City of Lights -- but when Channel 2 asked for your Facebook comments on dangerous intersections, many local drivers said it’s the ones without traffic signals which leave them glowing with anger.
Once we posted a request for comments a few weeks ago, responses started piling up faster than traffic on the Glenn Highway at rush hour.
Facebook user Christy Stevens agreed with Mabry about the Dowling roundabouts.
“I have almost been hit several times because people don't know how to drive in a round about!” Stevens wrote. “They need to add that to the drivers manual and make people drive on them in their drivers test. Maybe even have a class because I am tired of people not yeilding and nearly slamming into my car while I am in that roundabout on Dowling.”
Another popular target of drivers’ ire was the state Department of Transportation’s extension work on Elmore Road in 2007, which widened sidewalks and added landscaping.
“I think ALL the roads on (E)lmore,” wrote Heidi Morrison. “(T)he trees that the state put in are horrible.”
“Elmore and Coventry- across from the ball fields,” wrote Kate Leary. “If you stop back far enough for walkers/bikers to cross you can't see anything.”
Other complaints spanned roads across the city, quickly filling a Google map with notes about problem intersections. Channel 2 visited many of them and took photos of the dangerous turns people mentioned.
“The Costco at DeBarr and Bragaw, between the Midas and the Jiffy Lube,” wrote Tama Warner. “The Jiffy Lube sign blocks sight of the sidewalk for pedestrian traffic.”
“88th Avenue & Arlene,” wrote Kimberly Rebew. ‘”(T)he trees hide the stop sign on 88th going east.”
City and state officials say they’re very responsive to public complaints about dangerous intersections, but those responses take time.
Stephanie Mormilo, a traffic engineer with the city Department of Public Works’ Traffic Division, says its three employees try to acknowledge complaints within a week, but may take as long as a month to actually examine a given intersection in person.
“I personally have two or three comments I am getting from the public on a daily basis,” Mormilo said, noting that other division employees receive complaints at a similar rate.
Mormilo says the Traffic Division’s Paint and Sign Shop makes almost every sign it has to replace. The division tries to replace damaged or missing stop or yield signs within 24 hours, and usually has to make 30 to 50 on an average month -- but August saw more than 100 signs replaced.
“Each individual sign is several hundred dollars,” Mormilo said. “It adds up.”
Mormilo says the city hasn’t built many roundabouts yet, but it learned a lot from the Southport roundabout at Southport Drive and Washington Avenue. Improvements over the years have included making the roundabout larger and more prominently landscaping the island at its center, so drivers don’t try to drive straight through it.
“It was very early in the science of roundabouts,” Mormilo said. “It was reconstructed a number of times.”
While Mormilo admits accidents still happen in roundabouts at about the same rate as conventional intersections, she says they’re less likely to injure or kill vehicles’ occupants because cars are less likely to strike each other head-on or at 90-degree angles. She says there hasn’t yet been a single fatal crash in DOT’s roundabouts at Dowling Road and the New Seward Highway.