There are bad ideas and horrible ideas. Shutting off the lights on a 34-mile stretch of the Glenn Highway is both – and a dumb idea, to boot.
But that is exactly what the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities wants to do between Anchorage and Mat-Su Borough between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. As winter approaches. As moose are moving about. And drivers are determined to drive 70 miles per hour or even faster.
Many of us remember the dark old days when the Glenn was not lighted except at interchanges. We remember how the icy roads soaked up headlights, making it hard to see the edges of the highway. We remember the thrill of 1,000 pounds of moose appearing out of the darkness on the highway ahead. We remember snow making for near-zero visibility in the darkness. And we remember the thrill of just getting home or to work in one piece.
The idea – DOT is calling it a lighting curfew – is to save money, the agency says. DOT estimates it will save about $190,000 in electrical costs once the lighting curfew is implemented. Interchanges and overpasses will remain lighted.
The Glenn Highway is not the first such “curfew.” DOT has ordered lighting them elsewhere – short sections of the Sterling Highway, Minnesota Drive and C Street, but who cares? The idea of turning off the lights on a moose-infested stretch of Alaska’s busiest highway in winter is beyond the pale.
Surely, in a state with a multibillion-dollar budget, a state that just chopped it residents’ Permanent Fund dividends in half to take in another half-billion dollars or so, there must be $190,000 laying around somewhere so that nobody has to die in the dark on the Glenn Highway.
Government, as we have mentioned before, has very few legitimate tasks. Public safety is among the top responsibilities. Being dumb is not.