Alaska Life Hack: Road lighting curfew starts on Glenn Highway - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, October 18, 2019
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Alaska Life Hack: Road lighting curfew starts on Glenn Highway

Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities is extending its lighting curfew program to stretches of the Glenn Highway between Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley, a distance of 34 miles.

A lighting curfew turns off street lighting between interchanges during late night and early morning hours.

The Glenn Highway lighting curfew will be between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. 

Electricity is a significant part of DOT’s Central Region operating budget, the department noted, costing $2.2 million each year for approximately 8,500 fixtures.

Late night and early morning hours (midnight to 6 a.m.) account for 50 percent of the department’s electrical budget for lighting, when less than 5 percent of the traffic is on the road. 

The department estimates a savings of approximately $190,000 in electrical costs once the lighting curfew is fully implemented. The savings will be used to prioritize winter maintenance tasks, such as snow and ice removal.

DOT has implemented lighting curfews along three sections of highway, including: 

  • Minnesota Drive: International to Old Seward, 5.0 miles (started in July of 2017) 
  • Sterling Highway MP 80-83, 4.0 miles (started March, 2019) 
  • C Street-Tudor to O’Malley, 3.8 miles (started July, 2019) 

The department plans to expand the lighting curfew to in the Valley, on Trunk Road from Parks Highway to Seldon Road, a distance of 3.5 miles. 

The department is converting eligible roadways to LED lighting with federal funds as repair cycles occur. Recent LED Lighting Retrofit Projects have generated $70,000 in annual savings. Combined LED retrofits and curfews have the potential to reduce state costs by up to 75 percent of the existing system costs. 

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • The purpose of the lighting is for darkness. Cost effectiveness is a good priority along with safety. How much savings and safety would be availed if every few lights were designed with LED until full implementation is possible? I appreciate the Glenn Hwy Lights for better awareness of moose and people. I don’t have to blind cars with my moose lights. As an aviator, I am guided at night to stay west of the Glenn Hwy by the lights, and am assured that if my engine stopped I could aim toward the Glenn Hwy. Tough decision but I wonder if it is Black or Light to resolve?

  • Moose will die as a result of this decision. Who thought this up? Boris Badenof? Is Natasha lurking somewhere in the bowels of D.O.T.?
    Seriously, the Glenn is heavily traveled at 4am!

  • Fortunately, I don’t drive much in full darkness. I actually prefer unlighted roads and good headlights. One of the unintended consequences of this decision is that the people who have to drive these roads in full darkness and with no road lighting will go to their friendly, local auto parts store and buy aftermarket headlights, which will then be illegally or improperly installed.

    Already, a quarter or so of the vehicles on Anchorage roads have aftermarket lights and a significant number of them are illegal or improperly aimed so that they blind oncoming traffic. Putting aftermarket HID bulbs in your OEM reflector housing will give you that cool blue color, but it gives you crummy lights that blind oncoming traffic. HIDs are only legal in projector housings, and good projectors are expensive. To make that simple; if your car came with regular incandescent, even halogen, lights, it is illegal to put an HID bulb in that housing. Any color other than white or amber is illegal on the front of a vehicle and the closer your lights are to purple, the more likely they’re illegal. The “moose light” bars that everyone loves are blatantly illegal on the highway. Some have a “fog light” beam with a sharp upper cutoff, but they’re only legal if mounted below your headlights.

    Of course, Alaska has no vehicle inspection and you’d have to send the cops an engraved invitation and offer refreshments to get a ticket for an equipment violation other than no seatbelt, which they can use as probable cause for a breathalyzer. So, while this my save the DOT some money on its electric bill, it is going to put more cars with illegal or improperly aimed lights on the roads and there’ll be a lot more drunks feeling their way home in the dark. Everything has consequences.

    • Art, I agree completely on what will happen as a result from this. I also get blinded every morning after people install these bulb/light bars on their vehicles. You are also right about adding HID or LED bulbs to OEM housings causing issues. They are brighter….sure but the do not focus properly & are worse then stock projector housings, you are also right that people will just “bulb swap” rather then install the proper hardware. Here’s the thing though……. I am pretty sure those laws had a “Sunset” clause & fell off the books a few years ago. I remember when you would get a ticket if you didn’t have covers on your “off-Road” lights, but when I tried to find those laws I was surprised to find the don’t exist anymore. Please correct me if I am wrong here as I really want to be wrong on this, but I couldn’t find it in Alaska’s Laws. I severely doubt any of the light bars people add have a D.O.T sticker on them & I would think those would be illegal but I have never heard (recently) of anyone being ticketed (heck that alone could offset the States budget issue lol). As for those bulb swaps into OEM housings I just don’t see a solution. Also don’t bother telling these people that it makes their lights worse & definitely causes them to be out of adjustment as it seems to be a waste of breath. Apparently D.O.T. just wants to save their cash at the expense of Alaskans safety.

      • There doesn’t have to be a State law; the federal law and DOT regulations are controlling.

  • At the same time this “savings” tradeoff between late night highway safety and electricity costs is being implemented, in Anchorage (a city that depends heavily on traffic in and out on the Glenn for all it’s commercial activities, including people traveling from the valley to their to catch early morning jobs and air flights) Mayor Berkowitz wants to increase the “arts” tax on their public works projects to make them more “artsy”.

    To quote the proposal from the story on this site, “Large-scale projects are also more likely to cost more than $1 million, which is the threshold for the 1 percent for arts requirement. A $5 million trail rehabilitation project would need to have a $50,000 taken from construction and dedicated to artistic expression.”

    A prime example of how skewed government priorities have become in today’s world.

    • Exactly. and stupid road projects like the one where they widened the road by Indian instead of McHugh Creek on the Seward where there are hundreds of skid marks. Widening the Seward instead of knocking loose boulders off the cliff faces. Have art donated if they want it.

  • Sure there will be a savings on electricity during that time period, but I can almost bet there will be an uptake in Anchorage and Trooper police payroll due to the need for police presence for vehicle/moose incidents and other types of accidents that will occur in those areas.

  • How many lives are worth 190K?

  • Agree, agree, agree, with all the safety comments above. But another thing I question is this: Where is the “savings” really going? At the end of every budget year, does DOT actually get to say “we saved $xxx in electrical costs, so we can use that money for more winter maintenance tasks”?
    .
    Every other department in the state is penalized at the end of the year in the budget process if they “save”. If you have money left in your budget, there is a spend-a-thon, OR, you get a smaller budget next year as your “reward” for saving money. Cathy Giessel and Co. will be sitting there waiting to get their hands on any “extra” funds for their pet projects. Meanwhile, back at the morgue….

  • I commuted for 12 years from mile 50 parks highway to midtown.When they finally put some lights up it made a real difference.To this day I still see the ginormous lights on during the day.Perhaps they could cut down on the pretty flowers baskets or something else.Its always like this first cuts are police or ire now lights.

  • So, is DOT going to train moose to stay off the highway during those hours? If they really are concerned about electric use, they should be sure that lights are off during daylight hours. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen them on during the day and during summer evenings. This is going to cause more accidents (deaths).

  • “Curfew” implies that road use is forbidden at set hours dictated by the government (employees). On the flipside, if DOT wanted to save money, they should’ve been replacing the old bulbs with the newer LED bulbs (50% less energy usage). I’m sure DOT received their full allocation of funding, to be catty and cut the lights off sounds like some execs need to be pink slipped. It makes me wonder how many of “upper management” vote democrat and have TDS..

  • I have been in SC Alaska for 50 years, so I was here when they first began lighting the highway between Anchorage and Wasilla. The lights were put in for the purpose of reducing moose-vehicle collisions and it worked. Now, dot&pf is going to save money by turning off the lights during low traffic hours, which will most certainly lead to casualties among moose and people. Basically, the lives of folks who have to drive the highway during curfew hours count for nothing. You are expendable in the eyes of dot&pf’s leadership.

    DOT&PF is a bloated bureaucracy with lots of very highly paid employees. They could save $190,000 easily by dumping one or two of their upper level pencil pushers and nobody would miss them. Leave the lights ON!!!!

  • So people arrive at the airport at midnight and by the time they get their luggage and pick up cars, they’re on the highway to the valley just in time for the lights to go black. This move was ill-considered. If they had to choose four hours, 2-5am would be more practical and considerate.

  • Update: Senator Shelley Hughes reports that the Dunleavy administration has decided to not shut off the lights along the Glenn Highway and will find other ways to save money within the department. Good news for all those driving the Glenn!

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