ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Regular commuters on Knik Goose Bay Road heard updates from state officials on progress towards making the dangerous stretch of road safer to drive at a community council meeting at Settlers Bay Lodge Wednesday evening.
The eight-mile stretch of highway has claimed many lives. The DOT says crashes happen on KGB at a rate four times higher than the national average.
Since its designation in 2009 as a Highway Safety Corridor, the state has invested $9 million in safety improvements. But the DOT says there’s still work to be done. They have two projects in the works, with construction slated to begin in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Wednesday’s community council meeting was overflowing with area residents looking to the state for answers to ongoing safety issues on KGB. Some of them had even lost family to the dangerous corridor.
“In 2016, my wife and I moved out here from Anchorage, and I was driving down KGB off the foothills and there was a body laying on the road from a car accident,” a resident said to DOT spokesperson Eric Miyashiro. “Last August, my son was laying out there, dead. My wife and I have been saying please get this done.”
“We move as fast as we can for all projects,” Miyashiro responded. “We understand that fatalities on this strip have increased in the last three years, and we know the stats on this, and it’s important to us to get this thing done as well.”
Alaska State Trooper Darin Cooper has worked in the area for over a decade. He says it will take collaboration between DOT and AST to address the issue through road safety projects and law enforcement.
One major issue, Connor says, is there are only three troopers for traffic enforcement and collision investigation on two of Alaska’s dangerous safety corridors: KGB and Parks Highway from Church Road to Big Lake.
“This area, particularly KGB, saw a high number of fatality collisions last year alone,” Connor said. “We’re hoping the new administration’s priority on public safety will give us more resources on this particular corridor.”
As someone who regularly patrols the KGB, Connor has plenty of near-crash stories of his own.
“I’ve almost been hit several times head-on while working as a trooper on this roadway,” he said. “Just going to these collisions time after time after time and seeing the effects that it has on the families outside of the crash we’re investigating.”
It takes a toll, Cooper says, and he hopes things will change — soon.
Joshua Broda, owner of Settlers Bay Lodge, says the business has had two fatal crashes happen just outside their front door. He regularly commutes from Anchorage to work, a route taking him straight down KGB.
“Making that left-hand turn into Settlers Bay is treacherous, and I think we need to have a solution long-term,” Broda said. “There’s other businesses that share our property line and I know we’re not the only ones concerned about that.”
DOT says they will hold public hearings in March and April where residents can provide final concerns before the next phases of the projects begin.