Due to funding reductions, Alaska DOT cuts back on maintenance

The Alaska Department of Transportation is cutting back more on maintenance due to state funding reductions. DOT norther region spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said the department is ceasing maintenance at the Circle airport, and closing 5 road maintenance stations on the Steese Highway at Central, on the Edgerton at Chitina, along the Richardson Highway at Birch Lake, and on the Taylor Highway at Obrien Creek.

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”We’ve been talking about this kinda since last December when we knew that we’d be facing some pretty significant budget cuts,” Bailey said. “And we went and talked to these communities. All of them are really upset about this. It definitely impacts these communities.”

Bailey said the maintenance will be picked up by staff and vehicles operating out of other DOT stations within a hundred miles.

“While all roads are going to remain open, it’ll take us longer to plow snow and ice, especially after a heavy storm or an ice event,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the cut backs, which also include reducing the Richardson Highway maintenance station at Thompson Pass outside Valdez to winter only, reflect a 60 million dollar reduction in DOT general fund dollars for statewide maintenance over the last 2 years.

”We’ve already, for the past two years, been reducing our number of staff. So we have laid people off,” Bailey said. “We’ve been letting go of equipment, cutting back on our overtime hours. So we’ve been doing all of that for as long as we could without impacting the actual maintenance stations. Really disclosing the maintenance stations is kinda the last thing we wanted to do.”

Bailey said if the budget cutting trend continues, more maintenance stations will be closed

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.