Although years of work predated it, Friday, Aug. 26, will go down as the moment in time when we began a critical project that is going to save lives.
Thirteen years have passed since Knik-Goose Bay Road was first designated as a Safety Corridor, and we have sadly lost too many lives on this short stretch of road in that time. We honored their memories with a walk down the road before we turned the ceremonial shovels of dirt to turn KGB into one of the safest roads in the state instead of one of its most dangerous.
Major projects like this one take time to design, to acquire right-of-way, and to comply with all local, state and federal permitting processes. Unfortunately, the KGB Road upgrade lost years of time when it was “paused” in 2016, despite having funds for it already approved by the Legislature. In other words, the decision to stop work on the state-funded portion of this project had nothing to do with the deficits Alaska was facing in 2016.
Between the 2016 “pause” and the 2017 decision to resume work, four lives were lost on KGB Road. When the pause was lifted, the spokesperson for the last administration said they needed to “do the right thing.”
Governments are formed to protect public safety first and foremost, and all four of my budgets have not sacrificed that responsibility despite our fiscal issues. We’ve added more than 40 Alaska State Troopers since I took office, and we’ve grown our number of Village Public Safety Officers from 45 to 55. Another full academy is now underway in Sitka that will increase those ranks even more.
But public safety is not just about law enforcement; it is also about ensuring Alaskans can safely travel to work, to school, and to enjoy our beautiful outdoors.
No part of the state has grown faster in the past decade than the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, but our infrastructure has not kept up in many cases, and KGB Road is the top example of that. More than 19,000 vehicles travel this road daily, and it has a fatal crash rate that is four times the national average. Because of this urgent need, I have focused on getting this project started since taking office, even though I inherited a $1.6 billion deficit that required some difficult conversations and decisions.
Thanks to the dedicated work by the team at the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, we now have a fully-funded, two-phase project that will bring KGB Road up to modern standards for safety. The first phase, starting now, will upgrade the four miles from Centaur Avenue to Fairview Loop by expanding the corridor to a four-land, divided roadway. We’ll add a multi-use pathway on the north side of the road, widen the shoulders, build median breaks and add continuous lighting. More traffic lights will be added, including at Endeavor Street to ease access to the Smith Ballfields. We’ll be substantially done with this phase by fall 2024, and start Phase Two to Settler’s Bay Drive in 2025.
We know the residents of this area have waited far too long for this project, and we’re asking for just a little more patience with us during construction. As always, please drive safely.
Mike Dunleavy is the 12th governor of Alaska.
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