Two months after the big quake, city and state leaders look to the future

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — It's been nearly two months since the big one that shook our community to the core, and state and city leaders are considering some of the lessons learned as they look to the future.

The Department of Transportation is working on a project to make changes to the Glenn Highway, with hopes to alleviate some of the traffic jams that disasters like an earthquake can cause, while the City of Anchorage looks at ways to better communicate with the public during times of emergency.

The DOT is keeping a close eye on some of the roads that had major cracks or breaks following the earthquake. Crews have reinforced and resealed some of the problem areas.

DOT spokesperson Shannon McCarthy says they're also looking at making changes to the Glenn Highway with hopes of alleviating some of the traffic congestion that disasters like an earthquake can cause.

"We would love to use that highway to do reverse flow," McCarthy said. "So we could have four lanes or six lanes depending on where it's at, headed out of town or into town. So we're doing that project and we'll actually be wrapping up some of those conclusions and we'll be working on that throughout the spring."

When it comes to preparing the Glenn Highway for contraflow, some physical changes will have to be made. The DOT says some of the main hurdles to overcome are the on-ramps that go from one lane to three lanes. When it comes to reversing traffic, it will then become three lanes of traffic quickly squeezing down to one lane in a short period of time, so engineers are considering different ways to make physical changes to the highway to avoid those problems.

Meanwhile, the Mayor's office says the city faced connectivity issues when trying to get important information out to the community. Cell phone coverage was spotty and unreliable at times, so the city is looking at adding some landlines to speed up the communication process. City officials are also expanding on communication programs like social media outreach and emergency alert systems like Nixle.

One important finding from the last time around is that the public listened and followed instructions, as Communications Director, Kristin DeSmith, explained to the Public Relations Society of America during its January luncheon.

"We asked the public to only call 911 if it was an unfolding emergency," DeSmith said. "We asked them to stay off the cell phone, and actually text and use social media, and that really helped us to not overload things, so I just really want to thank the Anchorage community and extended community for all of the things that they did, and how they helped one another out, and really performed like Alaskans during this really difficult time."

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