Highway turnouts proposed

Highway turnouts proposed

Noting problem areas on the Sterling Highway between Soldotna and Homer — sites where vehicle accidents have occurred — the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is planning slow-vehicle turnouts to help eliminate the problem.

The 12 northbound and 10 southbound pullouts considered for construction between milepost 100 and 165 were addressed at open houses at Homer Middle School on Tuesday and at Ninilchik School on Wednesday.

“Basically, we try to locate them where there seem to be accident locations we hope will be correctable by these,” said Kevin Jackson, DOT&PF project manager. 

Between 2004 and 2008, 613 vehicle crashes were reported on the Sterling Highway between Soldotna and the top of the Homer hill. These accidents accounted for six fatalities and 185 injuries or possible injuries.

“We also try to locate the turnouts everywhere we could,” said Jackson. 

“We were limited where we could put them.”

That, as it turned out, was no small thing for this stretch of the highway where turns and hills are frequent. It also explains why in some locations, such as the southbound lane between mile 150 and 156 and the northbound lane near mile 160, the turnouts are positioned so close together.

“It’s preferable to space them out evenly, but we can’t,” said Jackson.

Only one of the sites appears to require obtaining an easement.

“It’s not that we need it to construct the turnout, but where we’ll construct the ditch and it catches the outside of an existing right of way,” said Jackson. “We’ll be contacting that property owner and trying to buy the easement for the back-slope of our ditch.”

According to information provided by DOT&PF, daily traffic volumes in 2008 reached as high at 6,000 at the Soldotna end of this section of highway and 4,700 at the top of Homer hill, with 156-183 percent of the average daily traffic occurring in June, July and August. Summer peaks in the Anchor Point area have more than doubled the average daily traffic volumes.

“The mixture of lower speed ‘sightseeing,’ RV and boat-hauling drivers with the more aggressive weekend fishing-trip driver causes conflict and results in driver impatience, inattention, excessive speed proper passing, fatigue, etc.,” according to a DOT&PF report, which also notes that situation it “more complex” during summer months. In addition, the report points out that following slower driver and larger vehicles traveling at less uniform speeds “increases driver impatience and often results in increased reckless and aggressive driving fatigue. These are greater factors in head-on collisions than actual passing maneuvers.”

Since 1993, Alaska law has required drivers to pull over if they are causing a delay of five or more vehicles. In an effort to reduce head-on collisions throughout the state, DOT&PF and the Alaska Department of Public Safety have worked together on media education, enforcement and the construction of passing lanes and multi-lane highways. Rumble-strip centerlines and turnouts have been used in high crash areas. For portions of the highway lacking passing lanes, slow vehicle turnouts “are an affordable and more rapidly built interim measure with less design and construction impact,” said DOT&PF on its website. 

But just how effective are turnouts in eliminating accidents?

“If people don’t use them, it won’t be effective, obviously, but right now there’s no place for people to turn out. As least we’ll be providing that,” said Jackson.

Costs for the project include:

• Design: $1,300,000

• Right-of-way: $20,000

• Construction: $7,521,000

• Utilities: $124,000.

• TOTAL: $8,965,000

The Sterling Highway slow vehicle turnout project will be funded through the Highway Safety Improvement Program. Construction will be completed in 2014.

A third open-house will be held at Tustumena Elementary School in Kasilof today from 4-7 p.m. For more on the project, visit www.sterlinghwysvt.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

More in News

Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. The veteran Alaska legislator was passing through Homer while waiting to take the M/V Tustumena ferry to Kodiak. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Clem Tillion, PFD founder and former legislator, dies at 96

Tillion died Wedneday, Oct. 13, at Halibut Cove home.

Thunder Mountain High School on April 18.  Earlier this fall, vandalism including stolen soap dispensers and toilets clogged with foreign objects such as paper towel rolls were a problem at schools nationwide and in Juneau. But, principals say the local situation is improving. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
After brief surge, vandalism subsiding at local high schools

Principals say internet trends, stress likely behind incidents.

In this Jan. 8, 2020, photo Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, heads to a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. An Alaska man faces federal charges after authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill Murkowski, according to court documents unsealed Wed., Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,File)
Delta Junction man faces charges over threatening Murkowski’s life

Authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill the senator.

Donna Aderhold recites the Homer City Council oath of office and is sworn in for duty at the city council meeting on Oct. 11. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
New council members sworn into duty Monday

Newly-elected Homer City Council members Shelly Erickson and Jason Davis and re-elected… Continue reading

Runners participate in boys varsity race at the Ted McKenney XC Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. The trails recently reported incidents of vandalism and theft. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Vandalism and theft reported at Tsalteshi Trails

One trail user reported stolen skis recently and multiple signs have been defaced.

At left Bonita Banks, RN, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) nurse at Homer Medical Center, and at right, Annie Garay, RN, Community Health Educator, pose for a photo at South Peninsula Hospital on Sept. 27, 2021, at Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
New hospital community health educator starts

Garay, a Homer raised nurse, came home to ride out COVID-19, wound up doing pandemic nursing.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Montessori school goes to universal indoor masking

As of Tuesday, eight KPBSD schools were operating with universal indoor masking for staff and students.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Crabbers look at cuts to quotas

Tanner, opilio crab quotas cut on top of cancellation of fall king crab fishery.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Judge sides with psychiatrists who alleged wrongful firing

Two psychiatrists said they were wrongfully fired when Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office.

Most Read