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When will your road be plowed? DOT talks Fairbanks winter road priority levels

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 6:06 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Winter in Alaska means snow, snow that can shut down roads. The Alaska Department of Transportation is tasked with plowing and maintaining many roads around Fairbanks. They have developed a priority system for what roads should be plowed during and in what order, after a snowstorm.

“During a storm, so like when the snow is falling, when the storm is happening, we’re going to be focusing on the priority one roads. So those are the main roads in town like the Mitchell Expressway, Parks Highway, Richardson Highway all the way to Eielson," said Caitlin Frye, the Northern Region Information Officer for the Alaska DOT.

She said they work to ensure these roads are plowed and clear while the snow is falling. After a snow storm is over they move to lower priority roads.

“That’s when we start moving on to those priority two roads. So that would be like Airport Way, University Avenue. Then moving down to those smaller lower traffic roads like Sheep Creek, Chena Hot Springs Road. And then to those really small kind of neighborhood routes," Frye said.

Roads are ranked from priority one to five. Priority five roads, like the Denali and Taylor Highways are not plowed during the winter. Frye said their goal is to plow all of the roads to priority four within 30 hours of the storm ending. She said that while that is their goal, sometimes there are situations where they are unable to complete it within 30 hours.

After they initially plow the roads, Frye said, “That’s when they come back with graders and other equipment to remove snow, take down berms, cleanup intersections, and kind of do that cleanup work around mailboxes, pullouts. So that happens after that initial plowing is done.”

Frye said that not all roads in Fairbanks are maintained by the DOT. Some roads are maintained by the City of Fairbanks or the Borough. To find out what roads are maintained by DOT and what priority level they are, you can go to the DOT’s Winter Roads website.

Frye said that sometimes during bad storms, non-operator employees will use DOT pickup trucks with plows to at least open roads around Fairbanks that may be lower on the priority list. She said while this isn’t to the level that a big truck would get, it does allow them to make sure residents and school buses are able to use the roads.

Frye also said that residents can contact the DOT with specific concerns about areas that may have been missed or hazards that may need taken care of. She said they will send someone out to assess the report and see how it should be dealt with.

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