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In Anchorage, criticism over a moose fence by airport

Posted: July 14, 2013 - 12:08am

ANCHORAGE — A proposal to install a fence along a 5-mile stretch of road known for moose-car strikes is getting criticism from neighbors.

Between 2010 and 2011, the corridor from International Airport Road to the Old Seward Highway saw 106 encounters with the animals, making it one of the most dangerous spots for motorists in Anchorage, The Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.

State traffic planners say fencing off the highway, like they’ve done along Elmore Road and the Glenn Highway, would slice that figure in half, and there’s federal money to pay for it. But the state’s plan is colliding with area residents who argue that tree-cutting associated with the project will expose their homes to highway noise and cut property values.

At a bowling alley in Jewel Lake, more than three dozen people turned out Thursday night to pepper a DOT representative with questions and to convey their displeasure.

“I think DOT should give residents that live along this belt some consideration,” said Gerald Valinske, 62, a retired railroad worker who lives just east of Minnesota Drive. “Not just the people that are driving.”

The department is planning to respond to the concerns and to make adjustments. But officials also believe the project meets noise standards, and that because the federal funding is earmarked for improving safety, it can’t be used to pay for a noise buffer.

“Our mission is to safely move people in our transportation corridor. We have policies that we have to abide by,” Project Manager Kevin Jackson said. But, he added: “We’re certainly receptive to the comments we’re receiving.”

Of the complaints aired at the bowling alley, foremost among them was that the state hadn’t notified them about the project. Several said that they’d been informed by neighbors who were going door to door to spread the word.

Jackson said the state had sent out a mailer to 1,149 addresses along Minnesota Drive, two blocks deep, in April. But only a single resident of the 40 at the meeting reported receiving one.

The state has posted all the plans and other project information, including comments from the public with responses from the department, on a website, minnesotadrivemoose.com.

After the meeting, Jackson said in a follow-up email that DOT will shift the plans for the fence to minimize its impact on residents “while maintaining the needs and goals of the project.”

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