Plans shelved to turn off Glenn Highway's lights late at night

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Transportation has postponed plans to switch off lights on a stretch of the Glenn Highway at night to save money.

On Monday, the department announced that a lighting curfew would see a 34-mile section of the highway go dark between 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.

The department’s plan was part of a four-stage lighting curfew being enacted across parts of the state. Sections of Minnesota Drive, the Sterling Highway and C Street have already had their lights turned off late at night.

The department estimates that if the curfew had been completely implemented, it could have saved state roughly $190,000 per year. The potential savings for DOT would have been used for winter maintenance, including snow and ice removal.

The decision to turn street lights off on the Glenn Highway provoked a quick and fierce backlash from people concerned about the possibility of collisions with moose.

Palmer Republican Sen. Shelley Hughes said she received calls from worried constituents about the threats to public safety. She says she called the governor, requesting that the plan be shelved.

According to the department, Gov. Michael Dunleavy requested that DOT postpone the Glenn Highway lighting curfew until additional data can be gathered on the three other highways under lighting curfew.

“The department will re-evaluate once the additional data is gathered to see if, and when, we could move forward with a lighting curfew, or explore other options, including a future conversion to LED lights, when LED freeway lighting becomes available on the market,” read a statement sent Wednesday from Shannon McCarthy, a spokesperson for DOT.

On Monday, McCarthy said that the “area has a lot of moose fencing” and that there are far fewer moose crashes late at night. Lights for on and off-ramps and bridges would have stayed on, if the original plan had been implemented.

DOT is also working to retrofit LED lights on highways using federal funds, a process that has recently saved the state $70,000 annually.

“The department will continue to look for ways to save state funding in order to provide a comprehensive snow and ice removal effort throughout Southcentral Alaska,” read a statement from McCarthy.

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