By DAVE KIFFER
April 01, 2009
What, you say, Spring officially sprung on March 20?
I beg to differ.
First of all, this is the state where according to the song "when it's springtime in Alaska, it's 40 below!"
But more importantly, it is never really "Spring" until the State Troopers start handing out tickets for driving with your studded tires on
You see there is this totally bogus state law that says you can't use studded tires on state highways between April 15 and September 15.
The state says they need to control "studs" because they tear up the roads.
Like the Department of Transportation can really differentiate between "studded tire" road damage and just general, run of the mill, "freezing and thawing" road damage or "use of sub-standard, lowest bidder paving materials" road damage.
But, as usual, I digress.
Anyway, every year the state tells us that we need to take our studs off by April 15 (and you thought we just hated that day as 'tax day?'). And pretty much every April 15 there is still some snow and ice on the roads. Even down here in Alaska's Banana Belt.
So we go through this "song and dance" in which either the DOT or the Troopers announce an "extension." Usually a week or so.
Then when that time period expires and there is still snow and ice around, they issue another extension. Then sometimes that period expires and the snow still hasn't gone away and they announce another extension.
By then it is June and the leaves have already started to fall off the alder trees and there is a crisp Autumn chill in the air.
Of course, the logical thing would be to just get rid of the "no snow tires" rule altogether so we didn't have to take part in this bureaucratic charade, but then our roads would be "destroyed" by all those snow tires and we would have to spend bazillions of dollars a year just trying to fix them.
Wait, we already do anyway!
Believe me, I do sympathize with the DOT on this one.
It is hard to keep finding the gazookillions of dollars it needs to keep our roads drivable in this climate.
It is especially hard when the state's two largest cities (are you listening Anchorage and Fairbanks?) have made the state responsible for most if not all of their surface streets as well.
Of course, we in Ketchikan also "benefit" by the fact that our main thoroughfare, Tongass-Water-Front-Mill-Stedman Street, is also a state highway and is therefore eligible for DOT action (how about that six foot high snow berm this winter!).
Anway, the state is obviously in a bind and needs money to fix everything and wants us to stop using our studded tires in the summer (when it's only 20 below) which apparently makes things worse.
Once upon a time, I joked that Ketchikan could make some extra money by having a Nenana Ice Classic type lottery by having folks guess when the yearly Ketchikan street "break up" would occur.
In those halcyon days, it was a sure sign of spring when the yearly street construction projects would start.
Unfortunately, these days the roads stay torn up all year round, you can't predict an actual "break up."
But maybe the DOT could raise some extra road repair funds if they could do the street "break up" lottery statewide.
Of course, that would mean that they could find at least one section of road in the 14,366 miles of public roads in the state that was "unbroken."
If that happens, and they set
up a Nenana-like tripod, I'll be happy to drive my studded tires
on that road to speed things up.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
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