How city roads are kept safe during icy conditions

Published: Dec. 27, 2018 at 6:15 PM AKST
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With our beautiful winters here in Alaska, unfortunately come the occasional slippery roads. A question that often arises is, 'why salt isn't used to de-ice the roadways here?' Officials with Anchorage Street Maintenance tell us that salt is in fact used on our roadways, it's just not the first line of defense.

Anchorage Street Maintenance is responsible for 1,600 miles of road in the city. It's a lot of road to keep safe, and they do it all using mostly sand, and sometimes a combination of sand coated with magnesium chloride. The sand helps with traction, and the magnesium chloride helps the sand adhere to the roads, providing a bit of a de-icing quality as well.

There is a supply of salt on hand, but it is more expensive than sand to put down, so it's only used during emergency situations. When intersections or hills are icy, or freezing rain starts to build up on the roads and in vulnerable areas, Salt is used to melt that ice as needed.

Street Maintenance Superintendent, Eric Hodgson, says, "Street Maintenance usually puts out around 6,000 to 8,000 tons of sand a year. There's kind of a fine line there because as soon as it's spring time we have to pick all of that sand up as well, so we sand as needed, we sand for safety ... but we never sacrifice safety for sand. Safety is first priority."

Street Maintenance is a 24/7 operation during the winter months. There is a hotline to call if residents feel they need sand in a specific area of their neighborhood, and a crew will be dispatched immediately. That phone number is (907) 343-8277.