Alaska transportation leaders urge people to stay off the roads as snowstorm makes plowing a ‘challenge’

Municipal crews are stepping in to aid DOT crews in plowing roads
Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 3:16 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Mayor Dave Bronson over the weekend directed municipal snowplows, in coordination with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, to start plowing major state-owned roads.

He said the decision was made in order to speed up the plowing process, saying clearing those roads was taking too long to reach “passable levels.” The state is responsible for plowing most of the busiest roadways in the city, such as New Seward, Northern Lights, Minnesota, Tudor, and Dimond.

Most of these roads have developed deep, icy ruts that have created hazardous driving conditions and forced drivers to heavily reduce their speed.

“The city is doing very well ... we’ve moved into the neighborhoods with our graters and trucks. Some of the major thoroughfares, which are not city roads, are still a big challenge,” Bronson said.

According to Justin Shelby, the administrative operations manager with DOTPF, the recent storms have been bringing moisture-rich snow that is more prone to quickly turning into ice when combined with vehicle travel. Once the ice has set up, it makes it difficult for his fleet, which is made up largely of high-speed plows to clear the roads.

“What’s happening is the temperature’s hovering right around freezing and with traffic on the roads, it’s freezing into these really bumpy, icy ruts,” Shelby said.

Shelby said these ruts are hard on vehicles and on equipment trying to remove them. He encourages people to not go out, especially if they don’t need to. Having less traffic on the roads will help crews clear the roads more safely and efficiently.

The municipality’s backing means having a much larger fleet of graters to deal with the dangerous road conditions, as graters are more effective on ice.

“We really appreciated the collaboration with the muni with this storm event, in particular, they’ve got equipment that is better equipped to deal with some of the conditions we’re seeing out there,” Shelby said. “But also just for efficiency sake, having a higher level coordination, that’s been really great to make sure that we’re getting roads cleared as quickly as possible.”

With the storm being widespread and it covering much of Southcentral Alaska, DOTPF’s crews are focusing on Priority 1 roads which include “high-volume, high-speed highways, expressways, minor highways, all safety corridors and other major urban and community routes.”

“Right now crews are back working on Priority 1′s to keep the Glenn and Seward highways open, as well as Minnesota, they’re going to keep working those Priority 1 roads until the snow stops,” Shelby said.

According to the municipality, the city’s plowing operations today have been the following:

  • Plowing arterial and collector roads using sanders with belly-blades
  • Graders plowing residential areas throughout the morning until significant accumulation on arterial and collector roads warrants re-plowing
  • Pulling graders out of residential and onto main roads around noon
  • Once snowing stops and all arterial and collector are cleared, plow crews will begin using “Plow Plan A

Shelby asks for the public to continue to exercise patience, as clearing the roads is proving to be a challenge.

“Particularly when driving the streets around town, there are still problem areas on many of the roads that we’re still working to address so I just ask that drivers exercise caution, particularly when approaching intersections, on bridges and ramps,” Shelby said.

For updates on the latest state road conditions, check the DOTPF website. For updates on city roads, check the municipal website.