Fairbanks Department of Transportation discuss road scraping efforts

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 4:11 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Department of Transportation (DOT) has been working almost non-stop since the winter storm hit Interior Alaska in December.

According to Caitlyn Frye, Public Information Officer for the Alaska Department of Transportation, crews have been working long hours to keep up with cleaning efforts.

“Ever since this storm started, we’ve had extra people out on the road,” Frye explained. “That means people who are off shift coming in to help during their off time, and we also have brought in contractors to help us scrap ice, haul snow away, and just do other winter maintenance activities. So we are still operating on overtime, we still have extra people out there, and we currently have 16 contractors out on the road working.”

Frye continued, “The people who are working out there right now have been working really hard for a really long time. We have some operators out there who have worked 35 days in a row, and we’re talking 12 hour shifts at a minimum.”

Despite these efforts, there have been a series of obstacles slowing down the ice scraping.

“Even with all of these extra people, the work is really slow,” Frye elaborated. “Part of the reason it’s so slow is because we don’t have any storage space on the shoulders any longer for any of the snow. So that means pretty much everything we do when we’re ripping up hard pack, pushing shoulders back, getting rid of berms... we have to haul snow away, so that means we have to load it into a big truck and haul it away truckload by truckload.”

Along with the slow-going efforts, DOT has also had trouble with how the ice was formed during the storm according to Frye. “When that rain fell, the road temperature was still really, really cold - and that caused the rain to turn into ice and bond to the road sort of like cement. So we cannot scrape up all of that ice. There are some places where we’ve been able to scrape it up, and we think that has to do with potentially how much traffic there was on the road when the rain fell, or how much snow was on the road when the rain fell.”

This difficult-to-remove ice has contributed to gaps in the ice on pavement that residents have found uncomfortable to drive on.

“All the Fairbanks drivers have seen what somebody in our department referred to the other day as ‘reverse speed bumps,’” Frye said. “So that’s kind of like those gaps in the ice that are really uncomfortable to drive over. Those happen where there’s cracks in the road, and there’s a few different theories about why that ice has kind of popped up off of those sections of the road. It could be because there’s heat coming up from the road there. It also could be because of small shifts in the pavement, it’s just moving just a little bit where those cracks are, and it’s causing the ice to just pop off. So that’s also something people are dealing with. We didn’t put those cracks there, we also find them uncomfortable to drive over, but it’s a really tough situation for us to fix.”

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