My Turn: Coming highway disaster

Posted: Friday, October 05, 2007

See the snow coming down the mountains? Anyone planning on commuting into town this winter through the construction along Egan Drive has got to be concerned. My understanding is that what we are looking at - the narrow roadway with concrete blocks a couple of feet out from the lanes, is what is planned for this winter.

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Well, I have a few questions for the parties responsible for this level of planning:

1) What happens when snow and ice block the drains under the concrete blocks and it begins to rain more? Seems to me with no place to go, the water will only accumulate on top of an already slick roadway. Perhaps the city will hose down the skating rink in Douglas and let us practice driving on wet ice.

2) When it snows a foot or two overnight, how will the snow be removed with no place to push it? Or will we go down to a single lane until the state can get the snow blowers through?

3) I assume the highway department will sand like heck to cover the black ice that is sure to accumulate. This sand will provide more material to further block the drains (see No. 1, above). How will the sand be removed to enable the rain to run off the road?

4) When a car bounces off the concrete blocks and into the car beside it and both come to a halt, thus blocking off the entire roadway, will there be tow trucks and equipment stationed at both ends of the construction to quickly remove the vehicles so that delays won't last more than a couple of hours?

5) What is the plan to get rescue vehicles through to deal with severe accidents with multiple injuries, as is likely to happen, given the above four concerns?

6) Heavy, rock-loaded trucks regularly come through the construction chicanery. What happens when, because of the ice, one of these trucks can't stop in time to avoid creaming into the vehicle accident mentioned in No. 4 above?

7) Suppose a bus driver (city or school) sees too late that there is an accident and because of the concrete blocks has no where to go. He hits one side, which slues him around as he slides into the already wrecked cars. Imagine some following driver on their cell phone, in a heated conversation and not paying full attention, suddenly confronting a bus turned sideways. Multiply this scenario by a few more cars.

8) Imagine a driver, caught in the backed-up traffic jam, unable to move, and it's 15 degrees out, idling his car until it runs out of gas because it takes so long to extract the injured and move the vehicles. What are they going to do? How will the authorities deal with several abandoned vehicles because they ran out of gas waiting.

Think I'm over-imagining? For the "you could get hit by a meteor, too" crowd, think of the probability of getting hit by a meteor versus the probability of the above happening. I think it takes little imagination to guess what it will be like driving to town this winter. And remember, last year we had a record snow year. Unless we act early enough to get the powers-that-be to show a little more concern for their fellow citizens, there's going to be a lot of traffic bypassing on the old Glacier Highway by taking a left at Fred Meyer. What a mess that will be.

Anyone want to start a body-shop business?

• Steve Wolf is a Juneau resident.



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