The Seward Highway connects Anchorage, Alaska’s most populous urban area to the north—including Alaska’s North Slope—and all areas to the south—huge recreation areas along the coast that attract locals and visitors to world-class fishing and hiking. The Seward Highway is the lifeline that links the majority of Anchorage’s population to libraries, emergency rooms, the university, shopping districts and on and on.
However, the Seward is also a roadblock in a city that has few efficient east-west connections (there is a section that doesn’t have an east-west break for 1.5 miles). There is little infrastructure for bikes or pedestrians to move freely back and forth between the large neighborhoods to the east of the highway. This results in bikers crossing into the commercial district, and due to the congestion and lack of infrastructure to support non-motorized travel, the area is ranked as the top 10 bicycle crash locations in the state. Additionally, pedestrians continue to cross the Seward Highway on foot, vandalizing fencing and crossing a 65 mph facility on foot—setting up a potentially fatal situation. For the past 15 years, the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities has invested in the Seward Highway infrastructure and is now nearing completion of the design of the O’Malley to Dimond Boulevard project. This reconstruction will increase capacity, build connections to the surrounding neighborhoods, and make safety improvements, including creating more non-motorized connections, allowing bicyclists and pedestrians more options to move east and west via an underpass, with wider sidewalks and bike lanes. The project includes widening in the highway to six lanes (three in each direction), reconfiguring two existing interchanges—the intersections with O’Malley Road and Dimond Boulevard, and constructing a new overpass at Scooter Avenue to allow for vehicles and pedestrians to cross unimpeded under the highway.