Letters to the Editor

Letter: Dangerous Dowling interchange

I wholeheartedly agree with Leif Simcox that the “new and improved” Dowling Road-Seward Highway roundabout project has turned into something of a fiasco, at least for this winter. Because of a poor and inexplicable decision made by someone in a supervisory position, the new but unfinished roundabout resulted in some near collisions involving drivers trying to enter the roundabout from Brayton Drive — and eventually led to a lane closure and detour for northbound Brayton drivers who intended to use the roundabout.

The problem is this: in the past, drivers going north on Brayton and others using the Seward Highway’s northbound Dowling exit ramp would merge at the roundabout. But when they stopped work on their Dowling roundabout “improvement” project for the winter, state engineers and/or supervisors decided to place a concrete barrier between the exit ramp and Brayton Drive. They also left it so that drivers could only turn right from Brayton onto Dowling Road; that is, the — presumably — temporary “fix” didn’t allow Brayton drivers to enter the roundabout, something that they have been able to do for many years. Predictably, some number of drivers — including me — attempted to get onto the roundabout as they were able to do before the new construction, only to discover that there was no “merge” lane to do so. When this happened to me, initially I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. Fortunately, it was at a time of day when there was little traffic, so I was able to “self-correct” with no harm done.

It boggles my mind that the state apparently made no effort, at least that I’m aware of, to educate Anchorage motorists to this new traffic pattern. From what I’ve been able to learn, several drivers attempted to do exactly what I did, not realizing that the “rules” had changed. At a very minimum, project supervisors should have placed a sign on Brayton before the roundabout that advised drivers, “New Traffic Pattern” and “Right turn only.” But there was nothing of that sort that I could find when I later returned to learn more.

I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but the state — or someone in a decision-making position — decided that the best “solution” to this problem was to block the new Brayton Drive lane before it reached the roundabout and redirect drivers via a detour. Presumably this was done to prevent further confusion and the potential for a severe traffic accident.

It baffles me that project engineers and/or supervisors would leave this exceedingly expensive project in such a dangerously incomplete state without cautioning motorists of this change. It also baffles me that the Daily News doesn’t consider this an important enough story to report. Someone in a supervisory position should be required to explain the rationale that led to this major and potentially dangerous mistake. To me, it’s an incomprehensible screw-up and I’d like to know why it happened.

— Bill Sherwonit


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Bill Sherwonit

Anchorage nature writer Bill Sherwonit is the author of more than a dozen books, including "Alaska's Bears" and "Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska's Wildlife."