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Alaska State Highways (in development)

Started by oscar, October 24, 2015, 11:37:54 PM

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The draft Alaska State Highways route set is available for comment. There are 16 routes or route segments, but with a lot of mileage, in the draft set. It still needs point adjustments on some routes, as OpenStreetMap improves the quality of its mapping in Alaska, but comments on other things are welcome. We still need to complete updating activated route systems, and several in-development state route systems are ahead of Alaska in the pipeline and much closer to activation (Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont). But I'll put this out for comment even though it might be awhile before we complete work on ASH.

An index to the draft Alaska state route files, along with the already-activated files for (unsigned) Alaska Interstates, is at An older version can be viewed in CHM's Highway Browser, but it lacks some major recent changes, including the addition of AK 98, and changed routings for AK 5 and AK 10 (Chitina).

I'll start with some posts on specific topics that raise general issues (numbered but unsigned route segments, ferry connections between numbered route segments) that could affect other new route sets. These will be followed by catch-all posts with my other notes, which may anticipate other questions and comments you might have.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:


Unsigned numbered route segments

This would affect the AK 7 (Petersburg) and AK 10 (Cordova) segments. All the other segments for those routes, and the other un-segmented routes, have some route signage. Either I've seen it personally, or for AK 7 (Ketchikan) there are multiple reports on the forum that it is signed in the field.

My bottom line: keep both AK 7 (Petersburg) and AK 10 (Cordova) in the draft route set, making a small exception to CHM's longstanding general policy against including unsigned routes or route segments.

A few considerations:

-- Most state-maintained highways in Alaska are not assigned route numbers at all. Of the 500+ state-maintained roads in the Alaska DOT&PF inventory (excluding spurs, wyes, and other roads < 1 mile long), only about two dozen are assigned a route number. Some major state-maintained roads (like short freeways in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and the extensive highway networks around Nome and Kodiak) have no numbers, except for the six-digit internal inventory numbers Alaska DOT&PF assigns to every non-Federal road in the state. Alaska is super-selective in assigning and signing route numbers, unlike some states like Hawaii and Maryland where the DOTs have route numbers for (but not always route markers on) all highways they maintain no matter how unimportant.

(By the way, I would not press to add any of the unnumbered routes to the Alaska State Highways route set. Especially not the unnumbered freeways in Anchorage and Fairbanks, which I consider to be overgrown city streets, and also were too short to get into the U.S. Select Named Freeways route set. Maybe later, once we're completed our coverage of numbered state highways in the lower 48.)

-- As with the rest of Arctic North America, route signage is sparse outside major cities, except at junctions with other numbered highways. For one example, the Dalton Highway has sets of AK 11 markers at mile 0 (jct AK 2), around mile 175 in Coldfoot, around mile 305 at Slope Mtn. Camp, and possibly near its north end at mile 414 (nothing showing in GMSV or my photos, but I recall seeing a sign assembly there apparently with a missing route marker). When I first visited Alaska in 1994, I recall seeing more route markers on other highways in Alaska than there are today, but in rural areas they were mostly pockmarked with bullet holes after being used for target practice. Now there are fewer but better-maintained markers, mainly at junctions with other numbered routes, where route markers are most needed for navigation and also the added traffic discourages sign vandalism. The Cordova and Petersburg segments have no such junctions, nor are there any other major intersections where people might get lost without help from route markers.

-- In Cordova, Alaska DOT&PF confirms that there are currently no route markers there (no GMSV coverage; I also saw none when I visited in 2009), because when it tries to erect route markers, they quickly disappear. There is intense local opposition in Cordova to the idea of extending its AK 10 segment to connect with the rest of the state highway system, which seems to explain the persistent sign removals. The Petersburg AK 7 segment's lack of route signage (confirmed by both DOT&PF and GMSV) doesn't have such an unusual story behind it, it just seems to be that the route has no junctions with other numbered state highways or other major roads, and it's not long enough (only about 35 miles long) that DOT&PF would normally put a route marker at a non-junction location.

-- Both the Cordova and Petersburg segments are shown on the official state highway maps given out to tourists (the Cordova segment is longer and more conspicuous). Alaska DOT&PF is not trying to keep their existence a secret, as much as some Cordova residents would prefer otherwise. The Milepost (private detailed guide to Arctic highways, often used by tourists) also prominently notes that the Cordova segment is part of AK 10. (No such mention for AK 7 (Petersburg), though the Milepost also doesn't mention the known signed AK 7 segments in Juneau and Ketchikan.)

I would not make a lot of exceptions to the policy on unsigned routes or segments, but I think one is warranted in this instance. The Alaska numbered highway network is thin, and selective, enough that I'd like to include it all in TM even if two isolated segments of otherwise signed routes are unsigned.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:


Route segments linked by ferries

Unlike other jurisdictions, Alaska has no rivers with short ferry crossings to connect highway segments. It has the Alaska Marine Highway auto ferry system, with a lot of longer saltwater routes in southern Alaska from the Aleutians to the Inside Passage of southeast Alaska. A few Inside Passage routes link numbered highway segments, but even if we were to change policy on ferry crossings (which we might consider in other places), I don't think it should be done here.

CHM's usual policy was to exclude ferry crossings, and break up routes with crossings into separate segments. There were scattered exceptions, most notably in Canada's Northwest Territories where ice bridges replace ferries in the winter so you can drive across the frozen rivers. That exception would not apply here.

All four AK 7 segments (from north to south, Haines, Juneau, Petersburg, Ketchikan) are connected by AMHS auto ferries, crossing protected ocean waters that never freeze. But the terminals for all except the Haines segment are in the middle of a segment rather than at one or both ends, so you can't take the ferry to the end of one segment, drive to the other end, and catch another ferry to the next segment. The quickest crossings between segments range from 2 hours (the rare Haines-Juneau fast ferry sailings) to more than 10 hours (Petersburg-Ketchikan). Also, there are three different ferry routes connecting the Juneau and Petersburg segments (two of them slower and longer, with one or more stops), and the route connecting the Petersburg and Ketchikan segments includes a stop in Wrangell. All this would complicate treating all four segments as one route, so I wouldn't. 

AK 10 (Cordova) is connected by ferry to AK 4 in Valdez, but the AK 10 (Chitina) segment is about 90 miles on AK 4 from Valdez, so the "ferry link" between the two segments is only indirect.

There are other circumstances, such as much shorter river crossings, where I think it might be appropriate to count a ferry crossing as part of a route, but not here. These and other Alaska ferry routes should wait until if and when we start mapping ferry routes as a separate part of TM.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:



-- The routings of AK 5, and AK 10 (Chitina), are from the 2012 Alaska Supplement to the MUTCD, and confirmed by both an e-mail from Alaska DOT&PF and (for AK 5) an interim addendum to the 2012 supplement. The supplement appears to be the only Alaska DOT&PF document listing Alaska's numbered state routes, and the named highways they include -- the DOT usually refers to its highways by name, and their 6-digit internal inventory numbers (both used for the state's detailed logs for all non-Federal roads, including those not maintained by the state). Most online mapmakers use different routings, with AK 5 ending in Eagle rather than meeting YT 9 at the Canadian border, and AK 10's northern segment ending in Chitina rather than McCarthy. Our draft HB goes with the official route definitions.

-- In drafting the route files, I consulted an old edition (available online until at least 2012) of detailed route logs Alaska DOT&PF maintained for all non-Federal public roads in Alaska. Those logs were keyed to road name and 6-digit internal inventory number, rather than route number. However, the Alaska MUTCD supplement mentioned above identifies the named routes included in each numbered route, and each named route's route log shows its endpoints. The old route logs have been replaced with less detailed versions, and neither the old nor the new versions are now available online. However, I downloaded all the old route logs I needed while they were still online, and Alaska DOT&PF e-mailed me a few of the newer route logs. Alaska DOT&PF now has shapefiles online, though I don't know how to work with shapefiles, or how useful the shapefiles would be.

-- In addition to the official route logs, I consulted the detailed route logs in the privately-published Milepost guide to Arctic highways, though I used Milepost data to help with waypoint names and for general information rather than to place waypoints.

-- I took coordinates from OSM/Mapnik as much as possible. As I did when overhauling the Alaska Interstates route files, and Yukon and NWT systems, due to the uneven quality in the Arctic of open-source mapping (and poor resolution, at these latitudes, of open-source satellite imagery), I sometimes had to estimate the locations of intersections not shown in open-source mapping, or use waypoints from my handheld GPS receiver. For an example of the former, on AK 7 (Haines) OSM/Mapnik shows the Alaska Marine Highway ferry terminal in Haines (eastern terminus of AK 7's Haines segment) about five miles south of its actual location, so I had to work backward from the FroSt intersection shown in OSM/Mapnik, to approximate the actual terminal location using the distance from FroSt shown in the official state route log and a lot of temporary shaping points. For the latter, many of the waypoints on AK 11 were once up to a quarter-mile off the route shown on OSM/Mapnik, but even though OSM.Mapnik now more accurately shows the route, it doesn't show many of the intersections along the way (commercial mapping is not much better), so I'm still using my GPS coordinates for them. Some waypoints on other highways don't quite match the OSM/Mapnik route trace, for the same reason. The waypoints using GPS coordinates aren't marked in any way, but for Alaska routes where I used my GPS (AK 1 east of Palmer, AK 2, AK 3 north of Willow, AK 4 north of AK 10, AK 5, AK 7 (Haines), AK 8, AK 10 (Chitina) north of Chitina, AK 11, AK 98), if both the latitude and longitude coordinates end in "0", probability > 95% they came from my GPS receiver, which spits out coordinates with only five digits after the decimal point rather than the usual six.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:


Other notes

-- Some distinctive route markers (white-on-green, rather than the usual black-on-white), at the interchange between AK 3 and Trunk Rd. near Wasilla, suggest there is a Business Route 3 including frontage roads on both sides of AK 3. However, as discussed long ago elsewhere on the AARoads forum, the signs seems to be there to guide travelers to businesses on the AK 3 frontage roads, rather than to define a separate business route. In any case, there's no signage except on Trunk Rd. to confirm where the supposed business route extends or ends, such as where the frontage roads pass the Hyer Rd. interchange or end at the Seward Meridian Parkway. It does not appear on any official lists I've seen of numbered Alaska state highways, which also do not include any business or other bannered routes anywhere else in the state.

-- Many of the routes are concurrent in whole or in part with the existing Alaska Interstates route files, and I simply copied and spliced those files (minus deprecated labels). In particular, AK 3 = I-A4, AK 1 includes all of I-A3 and most of I-A1 (the west end of AK 1, south of Soldotna, is non-Interstate), AK 2 includes all of I-A2 and a small part of I-A1 (the west end of AK 2, west of Fairbanks, is non-Interstate), and a small part of AK 4 overlaps both AK 1 and I-A1. Any suggested fixes on those segments will need to be made to one or more other routes, too, so I'll be more reluctant to make such changes than for the non-Interstate routes.

-- AK 2 and AK 8 are milemarked east to west, and the waypoint order reflects that. AK 1 west of AK 9 is in reverse milemarker order, but the overall route is otherwise milemarked west to east, so I used that waypoint order for the entire route.

-- Since Alaska Marine Highway System terminals serve multiple vessels to multiple destinations, I labeled them all as "AMHSFry". That also distinguishes the AMHS ferry terminal on AK 7 (Petersburg) from the Rainforest Islands Ferry terminal at the other end of Mitkof Island.

-- Several waypoints on AK 11, AK 2, and AK 4 are labeled "PumpSta" followed by the station number. These are pump stations for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and are prominent facilities along those highways. (Pump Stations 1 and 8 are several miles off-highway, and Pump Station 11 was never built.) Their entrances are either right on the highway or at the end of short access roads. The state route logs name almost all of them "Pump Station _" whatever type of intersection applies. 

-- There are lots of side roads, especially on AK 11, which are only pipeline service roads and are gated off. I ignored them all when I gathered GPS coordinates. A few pipeline service roads are open to the general public and serve non-pipeline destinations, and I included waypoints for them if they had names (other than "Pipeline Road __") in a state route log or online maps.

-- AK 7 (Juneau) includes a three-mile extension at its north end (old end was Echo Cove Rd.), which opened in 2013. Further extensions are possible, but are hugely controversial, ensnarled in environmental litigation, and in any event will not directly connect AK 7 (Juneau) to AK 7 (Haines), AK 98, or any other state highway -- at best, the extended road will lead to a new ferry terminal, reducing travel times by shortening the ferry connections to Haines and Skagway.

--- AK 10 has a long unbuilt portion between Chitina and the Million Dollar Bridge east of Cordova, with no connection between the two segments. Alaska DOT&PF had planned to convert an old railroad track bed into an auto road link, but the track bed was severely damaged in a 1964 earthquake, and the plans to connect the two AK 10 segments haven't really recovered from that. As previously noted, there is intense opposition in Cordova to completing those plans.

-- The SumLake point on AK 4 is for the community of Summit Lake, not the adjacent lake of the same name. The community has a small street network with several homes and other buildings on it, but the streets appear to be unnamed. Summit Lake is best known, and most visited, for the annual Arctic Man winter sports competition there, drawing thousands of participants and spectators from all over Alaska.

-- AK 4 has two other waypoints labeled for place names, Pta(rmigan) and Wor(tmanns). Unlike Summit Lake, there aren't any real communities at those places, just two homes off the side of the highway at each place.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:

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Quote from: oscar on October 24, 2015, 11:39:01 PMMy bottom line: keep both AK 7 (Petersburg) and AK 10 (Cordova) in the draft route set, making a small exception to CHM's longstanding general policy against including unsigned routes or route segments.
This makes sense.

I've ignored the bits that are concurrent with the interstate highways, save for one thing on AK3/I-A4 that needs fixing.

AK1 - would a point at Diamond Ridge Road be useful?; Old Sterling Highway D seems unnecessary; Old Sterling Highway E and F seem to be on a specifically named segment: Shegota Loop
AK2 - need to add point for grade-separated interchange with Cushman St just north of AK3 junction; shaping point third point north of HimRd doesn't seem to be on the highway; ditto shaping points first and second points south, and first point north, of ColCrkTrl; ditto SPs fifth and sixth west of TolHSTr; some points beyond that off route on OSM, but not Google - guessing that OSM is just wrong here.
AK3 - need to add point for grade-separated interchange with Cushman St just west of AK2 junction (also on I-A4)
AK4 - are the WilCrkLp points, both of SquCrkSRS and TonAccTr (one would suffice), both of LitTonSRS and PumpSta12 (again, just one is needed), and perhaps a few other visible points, necessary?
AK5 - looks fine to me. Taylor Highway issues (that the top of it isn't AK5, but rather the Top of The World Highway is) have been discussed in the past.
AK6 - Similar problems to AK2, where there are several shaping points that don't tally with either OSM or (presumably more accurate) Google data
AK7 (Haines) - I see nothing wrong here
AK7 (Juneau) - add point at Vanderbilt Hill Rd?; add point at Old Dairy Rd for the international airport
AK7 (Ketchikan) - another point or two in Ketchikan's urban area?; SnoLn is well off mapping sources' route; TotBigSHS is slightly off mapping; add points for the settlements north of SnoLn?
AK7 (Petersburg) - I see nothing wrong here
AK8 - I see nothing wrong here
AK9 - I see nothing wrong here
AK10 (Chitina) - I see nothing wrong here
AK10 (Cordova) - I see nothing wrong here
AK11 - I see nothing wrong here
AK98 - I see nothing wrong here


Thanks -- I'll work through this all later. On waypoints off what the online mapping shows, some of that reflects "mapping drift", as OSM and other mapping services improve their rather crappy mapping of the Arctic, so I need to catch up to the new mapping. In some other places, the waypoint coordinates are from my handheld GPS (tipoff is there are only five digits after the decimal point, rather than the usual six, or the six-digit coordinates both end in zero), and online mapping that far north in Alaska is sketchy enough that I would rather trust my GPS readings.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:


I can have a look at the Alaska shapefiles you linked. If their X,Y coords are stored as floating-point long,lat pairs, then I can use GISplunge, or get coords from QGIS. If not, then I can still get coords from QGIS. Probably. It's a wee bit difficult, but can be done.
"Officer, I'm always careful to drive the speed limit no matter where I am and that's what I was doin'." Said "No, you weren't," she said, "Yes, I was." He said, "Madam, I just clocked you at 22 MPH," and she said "That's the speed limit," he said "No ma'am, that's the route numbah!"  - Gary Crocker


Quote from: yakra on November 05, 2015, 11:55:23 PM
I can have a look at the Alaska shapefiles you linked. If their X,Y coords are stored as floating-point long,lat pairs, then I can use GISplunge, or get coords from QGIS. If not, then I can still get coords from QGIS. Probably. It's a wee bit difficult, but can be done.

Thanks. I'm not sure I need coordinates for any routes, I mentioned the shapefiles mainly as an alternate online form of documentation for what I already have based on largely offline resources. The AK 6 part of the Steese Highway is where my mapping is sketchiest, since I clinched it in 1994 and didn't feel like going back there armed with a GPS receiver in 2012 (by that point, I was way behind schedule on what turned into a two-and-a-half-month road trip). Ditto the McCarthy Road part of AK 10, which I drove but didn't use my GPS receiver east of Chitina. So if you want to try out an Alaska shapefile or two, I suggest those.

Alaska DOT&PF normally organizes its highway data by named highway (such as Steese Highway) and 6-digit internal inventory number (152000 for the Steese, 198000 for the Edgerton Hwy/McCarthy Rd.), rather than by posted route number, so a data search for the posted number will likely get you nowhere.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:

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