October 24, 2019
Contact: Shannon McCarthy, (907)269-0448, Shannon.Mccarthy@alaska.gov
The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ recent announcement of our Silvertip Maintenance Station closure has understandably raised a lot of concern, and a lot of misunderstanding. To clear things up, I want to explain how we tackle road maintenance throughout the state—and how we have been making state operating dollars stretch while keeping highway safety a top priority.
In the last four years, the department closed four maintenance stations in response to budget reductions. We are now operating our maintenance division with $22 million less than we did six years ago. With these reductions, we have responded by investing in better, more reliable equipment, and more efficient chemicals to pre-treat roads for anti-icing instead of after-the-fact deicing. We have pursued these efficiencies in order to make up for reductions of staffing, equipment and commodities. We have been successful at insulating the public from feeling the impacts of budget reductions.
The assets from Silvertip station are being deployed to the adjacent stations - Girdwood and Crown Point. The section of the Seward Highway previously covered by the Silvertip Maintenance Station will now be maintained by staff from the Girdwood Maintenance Station to the north and the Crown Point Maintenance Station to the south. Silvertip Station will still house equipment as well as sand and chemicals to deal with road conditions. We will have the resources of two maintenance stations to respond, instead of just one. This is how we have managed other station closures.
This section of the Seward Highway will not have intermittent 20-hour coverage like we have provided in the past—but we will be providing continuous 18-hour coverage. We believe that by providing service 18 hours a day, between 4 a.m. and 10 p.m., we will be ensuring the Seward Highway remains in good driving condition when the vast majority of drivers are on the roadway. Truth is, none of the state’s highways have 24-hour snow removal coverage. Much of the Dalton, the Parks, and the Richardson are maintained less than 12 hours a day. We simply do not have the resources to cover all hours of the day. We never have.
When conditions require, we will have the ability to expand working hours. There may be times when severe weather events require a temporary road closure to allow our operators to clear the highway. This has been the case for the Seward Highway prior to the closure of the Silvertip station, and is the case for every highway in the state. While we anticipate this to be a rare occurrence, the potential of a closure occurring is still there, as it always has been.
Our equipment operators do an incredible job with limited resources. They are creative, hard-working and will always go the extra mile to help people in need. They take pride and ownership in the roads that they maintain for Alaskans. They know they are dealing with the safety of their family, friends and neighbors. Without their work ethic, we would have been feeling the impacts of these leaner budgets quite some time ago.
Commissioner, Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities
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