Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson on Friday announced a revamped snow removal plan for the upcoming winter season – and made a big promise.
“If this winter’s anything like last year, we are ready,” he said at a news conference at a snow dump and equipment storage facility in West Anchorage.
Last December, three consecutive snow storms hit Anchorage within two weeks.
The snow trapped hundreds of cars, made bus service unreliable, left sidewalks buried and forced an unprecedented string of school cancellations.
Bronson acknowledged residents’ frustrations on Friday. After the storms, he said he sat down with the snow removal team to revamp the response plan. That led to adding $1.5 million to his proposed budget for 2024 for snow removal.
“That will be used to expand the snow removal contracts we have in place and allow us more flexibility to get more drivers and contract equipment should we experience an extreme snowfall event,” he said.
Bronson said the city’s long-standing goal to plow out all city roads within three and a half days of a significant snowfall remains in place. Normally after a snowstorm, crews prioritize the city’s biggest roads, then move on to neighborhoods. But the repeat snow dumps last year meant crews had to keep coming back to the main roads as snow piled up on side streets.
This winter, if 4 inches or more snow falls, then city officials can bring in extra contract workers, and tow illegally parked vehicles in the way of plows.
If that’s not enough to adequately maintain roads, Bronson said he will declare a snow or ice emergency, which opens up more extraordinary powers to clear roadways.
Last year amid the storms, Bronson said declaring a snow emergency would have made no difference because there were no more workers or equipment to call upon.
This year, more equipment is available.
On the labor side, Street Maintenance Manager Paul VanLandingham said his department has openings for 10 permanent and six seasonal employees.
“But I think we’ll be all right,” he said. “We’re a little ahead of where we were last year, by five or six employees.”
VanLandingham said he has hiring interviews lined up for next week.
Residents can also sign up for push alerts on their phones about snow removal. A link to that and more information about the plan are available on a new snow removal page on the mayor’s website.