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Coming Soon, to a highway near you!


May 19, 2019
Sunday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Alaska has a budget problem. No question that we just can't keep spending our way blindly ahead without having some money to pay for it.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Especially if we insist upon sweetheart deals for major industries in which we actually pay THEM to extract OUR resources, but that is a topic for another day.

The state has proposed a variety of solutions such as eliminating such absolute non-necessities as the University of Alaska and the Alaska Marine Highway System. (sarcasm alert)

But they are also looking for other ways to take a bite out of the $9 Billion state budget.

For example, the other day, I saw an interesting press release from the State Department of Transportation.

Yeah, yeah, I have heard from a few (very few) of you that I am unduly harsh upon the DOT (actually the ADOTPF!). You say that I am always picking on those poor souls. That I mercilessly mock their efforts. That I am always complaining how they seem to manage to screw up every local road project and that they seem relentlessly intent on running the Alaska Marine Highway System into the ground....uh....water. (see above). That I disregard the good that ADOTPF does while playing up the folly.

May it please the court, I plead guilty. It's just that they make it so darn easy.

But I digress.

Anyway, I saw a press release that was released last month (should have been on April Fools Day) that caught my eye. It had to do with roads up north.

Now normally "roads up north" mean absolutely nothing to me. Sure, I use them when I am "up north" but since there is no charge to use those highways (unlike the charge we pay to use ours) I don't think that much about them.

But perhaps I should. After all, the ADOTPF often translates "lessons" learned elsewhere to our local shores. Usually with inane consequences.

Remember how a couple of years ago, they used a striping paint that worked great ELSEWHERE on OUR roads and it didn't dry and ended up all over everything? Yeah. apparently it worked really well in places like Oklahoma and Nevada that have similar issues with rainfall as Southeast Alaska. Not!

About a decade ago, they tried something similar by putting long-lasting plastic/vinyl/whatever road striping down. It also worked well elsewhere. But because it rains here - fancy that - the sticky striping didn't stick.

But I digress, again.

April's ADOTPF press release heralds something that could be the shape of things to come. It could truly mean state budget solvency in our lifetimes!

It seems that the state, for the past couple of years, has been experimenting with what is calls a "lighting curfew" on roads around Anchorage. The release doesn't exactly describe what the curfew entails, but it does note that it has reduced electrical costs.

Here's a sample from "Minnesota Drive Lighting Curfew Saves State Dollars."

"Electricity is a significant part of DOT&PF’s Central Region operating budget, costing $2.2 million annually for approximately 8,500 fixtures. Late night and early morning hours account for 50 percent of the department’s electrical budget for lighting, but less than 5 percent of the traffic is on the road. After a year of monitoring, the department has documented approximately $5,200 in savings, despite a significant rise in electrical costs. The savings can be applied to other regional maintenance needs."

Sounds nice. Although that $5,200 isn't going to make much of a dent in $2.2 million. In fact, I bet it cost more than $5,200 to "document" that savings.  Anyway, it's a start, right?

But let's look over the key bit of info there. "Late night and early morning hours account for 50 percent of the department's electrical budget for lighting, but less than 5 percent of the traffic is on the road."

Sure, the lighting should benefit the most vehicles, right?


When most of the vehicles are on the road, it is daytime. So. You. Don't. Need. Extra. Light. On. The. Highway!

When do you need extra artificial light?

In the "late night and early morning hours" when it is blacker outside than the inside of a coal mine. 

This almost leaves me speechless.

But, of course, not quite.

If you take this reasoning to a logical conclusion, it begins to make sense. If we just close the highways and streets in the "late night and early morning hours" (after all what else is a "curfew?") think how much money we will save. 

This can lead up to other "efficiencies" of the kind that politicians always say they are "looking for."

For example. We can save a lot of the money that the state spends on operating and maintaining airports by just closing the airports!

If we close the University of Alaska, we can save hundreds of millions of dollars a year!!

Same with the Alaska Marine Highway System!!!!!

Same with the Department of Motor Vehicles!!!

Wow, why hadn't people just thought of this before?

This is an "efficiency" who's time clearly has come.

Especially between 10 am and 6 am.




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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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