Snowy roads in Anchorage. Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.After back-to-back storms in Anchorage tapered off last night, some residents and local officials are annoyed roads still aren’t clear of snow, claiming the state is shirking it’s winter-weather responsibilities. But the municipality – 1,969 square miles – is bigger than the state of Rhode Island – 1,212 square miles – and plowing miles of roads requires money that’s already been cut out of budgets.Listen nowLast fall, the mayor’s administration warned Anchorage Assembly members that the state was trying to re-work its commitment to plow stretches of road maintained by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. This could be a massive public safety problem, given that the state is responsible for the main traffic arteries across the city.“Basically the DOT is responsible for the Glenn Highway, the Seward Highway, Muldoon, Tudor, Minnesota, A and C Street, Ingra and Gambell,” Alan Czajkowski said. Czajkowski is the city’s Director of Maintenance and Operations, which oversees the snowplow fleet.Both the state and the municipality have the same strategy for how they clear roads, Czajkowski explained: start at the highest traffic corridors and work your way down to residential roads.“They have limited resources, and they have priorities,” Czajkowski said.For the state’s plows, that actually means starting outside of town proper, along the Seward and Richardson highways.“It’s designed that way for safety. The first thing you want to do is keep police and fire-trucks and ambulances moving, so you do the largest first to handle the largest volumes of traffic, and then you work backwards to the least used roads,” Czajkowski explained.On top of a perception of inadequately prompt snow-removal, there’s been a tangible drop in resources for clearing roads. The Assembly approved a budget in November that put less money towards snowplowing in Anchorage. And according to Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson for DOT’s Central Region, the department has been trying to make due with a reduced funding from lawmakers in Juneau.“Our maintenance is funded through general fund dollars: those are state dollars,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “State funds have gotten more scarce over the last two years, we’ve had budget reductions. And that’s reduced the number of positions we’ve had, the number of equipment operators, and as a result the number of pieces of equipment. ”The deal between Anchorage and the state over who’s responsible for which sections of roads goes back to 1991, when the two entities worked out the Transfer of Responsibilities Agreement.“Because of a patchwork of ownership, it makes more sense in terms of efficiency for both organizations, and the TORA is how we do that,” McCarthy said.That agreement was being re-worked late last year, according to McCarthy, with the state preparing to reduce the number of miles it plowed inside the municipality. But that revised TORA was never signed, leaving the original agreement in place. The fact of the matter, McCarthy said, is budget cuts have reduced staff and equipment to just four or five state operators at a time clearing some of Alaska’s busiest roads.
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