Biking the Seward Highway to Girdwood is seen as a risky endeavor by Anchorage bicyclists, and usually viewed as completely insane among non-cyclists. That point of view has its merits with the highway being a know place for safety concerns for all user groups. The only suitable place for biking everyone can agree on is the Bird to Gird Pathway, a 13 mile separated pathway from Indian to Girdwood.
As it is, there are 12 miles of un-pathed highway between Potters Marsh in Anchorage and the start of the Bird trail in Indian. That number will be decreasing this summer with a mile-long Pathway Extension as part of DOT's Seward Highway MP 100 to 105 Project currently under construction. Better pathway access will be immensely beneficial to the community and many businesses in Indian. And as any Alaskan who's needed to bike the highway knows, every mile not spent on the shoulder is an immediate relief from the stress and danger of the high-speed high-volume vehicle traffic between Anchorage and Girdwood. The issue is that DOT's 100 to 105 project didn't continue the pathway for the last segment of the project's length. Now that pathway gap is being cited as the reason to not build further pathways along the highway during other highway improvement projects, as new pathway won't connect to the existing Bird to Gird Pathway.
New Projects, No Pathways.
The Bike Anchorage Advocacy Committee recently found out that a new project just north the Bird to Gird Trail, DOT's 105 to 107 Windy Corner, has chosen to not include pathway because of the "105 pathway gap" they left. This project is a massive one, moving thousands of tons of rock into the Turnagain Arm to straighten and widen the Seward highway to 4-lanes with a grass median in the middle. There will be a large "Mountain-Side Park" with parking and access to Turnagain Trail, a Turnagain Arm emergency access, and even the railroad is getting shifted. DOT assured the public that the right of way was set aside to build a pathway parallel to the highway, but since it wouldn't connect to the Bird to Gird trail DOT would not build one. Falls Creek trail, just south, will also not be accessible from the new park. The highway safety improvements of this project will be designed for people in cars to feel safer going faster, while cyclists will be left to navigate the shoulders of faster and busier highway lanes with merging and passing events happening around them.
The 12-miles of un-pathed Highway will not be reduced to 8-miles, and the Bird to Gird pathway, Falls Creek, and the town of Indian will not connect to the new Mountain Access Park area. The Seward Highway gets fixed in segments, this is why not adding pathways during these projects is short-sighted. Fortunately, there's still some hope!
Bike Advocacy Committee.
The Windy Corner Project is still in its review process and is accepting public comment. The Bike Anchorage Advocacy Committee took priority to speak up for Anchorage's biking and active community by submitting a letter to project management bringing attention to the issues and long-range active transportation plans not being followed. The committee also reached out to many interested groups and businesses alerting them to these project decisions and requesting their input.
Interested in helping secure pathway?
The Seward Highway 105 to 107 Safety Improvement Project's public review period is open until AUGUST 14th. Your input as a community member who acknowledges the requirement for safe separated pathway connections can make a huge impact. Submit your comment on the issue. DOT usually gets very few comments from the public, so they will be strongly considered.