Knik-Goose Bay Road in the Mat-Su Valley sees as many as 18,000 commuters a day, a number that could double by the year 2039. The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities hopes a reconstruction project will make it safer.
“It’s already way past the time when somebody has done something about it,” said Lois Weir, a Wasilla resident.
Weir, a longtime resident of Wasilla, attended a DOTPF open house to explain the project to Valley residents Wednesday night. She says she’s seen and heard a lot while living near what locals call KGB Road.
“Almost nightly and sometimes several times a night, several times during the day, we hear the ambulance going by on the KGB Road because of another accident, another person injured,” Weir said.
There have been more than 35 fatal accidents since 1977 on the road, and Weir is looking forward to a new reconstruction project DOTPF officials say will address high death and injury crash rates.
The growing population in the Mat-Su Valley is another concern.
“Eighteen thousand cars a day is like approaching 10,000 cars a lane -- that’s the same as (Anchorage's) Tudor Road -- it’s full,” said Scott Thomas, a DOTPF traffic engineer.
By adding medians, more lanes and wider shoulders, DOTPF officials hope the accident rate goes down while traffic picks up.
“When roads are full, there’s not a lot of room for error or judgment -- people have to really be alert," Thomas said. "I would say that the sheer volume of traffic is the main factor.”
Gerry Welsh, the project manager for the road reconstruction, said expanding the road will be safer and more commuter-friendly. It will also be able to handle traffic from possible future projects, such as the proposed Knik Arm Bridge which would connect the Mat-Su Valley to Anchorage.
Either way, Welsh said this road is needed.
“We believe the traffic is going to double with or without the Knik Arm Bridge,” Welsh said.
Construction is expected to begin by the year 2017, after an environmental impact study is complete and the final design is submitted. DOTPF is proposing to construct four lanes at first, but officials predict that an additional two lanes will be needed by 2034.
More information on the Knik-Goose Bay Road reconstruction project is available on its website.