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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Who Dropped The Ball? (Poor Road Conditions)
By Lee Caskey


January 18, 2012
Wednesday AM

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the general lack of maintenance in regards to snow/ice removal this year on the Tongass Highway? (North & South) It seems like every time the snow falls or the temperature drops, it's become common for the roads to become very difficult, if not dangerous for commuters. From ice control products not being laid out to waiting until the snow stops to run plows there doesn't seem to be enough being done lately. Personally I don't mind a little challenge while driving, but when we're talking about the safety of families, law-enforcement officers, emergency responders or utility crews there's no excuse for recent conditions.

Case in point:

Friday the 13th: After getting off work I drove home and immediately took to shoveling my driveway, which has a deceptively difficult hill, just enough to get my vehicles up and parked in their spots. I observed that the plow had been by not long ago and planned on clearing the rest the following day before the impending freeze-up.

Saturday the 14th: I spent the better part of Saturday shoveling snow to clear my driveway completely. As I was working through the berm left by the previous night, a kind neighbor rode over with his quad and plowed most of the heavier snow out of my way. Amongst other things, we chatted over ways to minimize the snow berm the plows typically leave across driveways. We agreed that moving some snow away ahead of our driveway entrances would probably help and after he left I spent the rest of the morning on into the afternoon clearing the remainder of my driveway, but the whole time I kept my ear out for the distinctive sound of a plow so that once it passed I could evaluate how well moving the extra snow worked and immediately clear the new resulting berm. I made a trip to town and figured on shoveling later. I even laid down a little salt in the evening to keep my work from icing over. But the plow never came...

At the time of writing this Monday evening, NOTHING has been done. No sand, no salt, definitely no plow trucks, nothing. North Tongass, past Refuge Cove is pretty much a white, solid sheet of ice! Usually getting up my driveway is the hard part, now I feel safer in my driveway than on the highway. After Saturday's sun and some hard work, it's in better shape than the Tongass, and frankly I can't see any reason whatsoever that the main road for thousands of residents is still covered in ice. Now, with the onset of a cold snap, it would seem that it won't be cleared off for quite awhile.

Please note: I'm not complaining about my driveway, or berms from plowing operations or even the sudden onslaught of snow. I'm also aware that there are heavy snow problems elsewhere in Alaska but as soon at it was determined that a similar, if much less severe, weather situation could arise here, the powers that be should have been much better prepared and taken proactive measures. THAT is what I am complaining about. This letter details one recent instance, but it's been this way all winter so far. In my opinion, someone is dropping the ball and it's been going on for far too long...

Lee Caskey
Ketchikan, AK

About: "Lee is a 30+ year resident, born and raised in Ketchikan.."

Received January 16, 2012 - Published January 18, 2012



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