Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Winter Road Maintainance

One of my fears of moving to Alaska was whether they plowed the roads or not, or how often. Based on half the winter, here are my conclusions:
  • The roads are plowed just about as often as in Michigan. I've driven in a lot worse in Michigan, though the roads here are more dangerous because of the elevation changes, curves and dropoffs (no guardrails).
  • I have seen no evidence of salt use on the roads anywhere in Alaska (doesn't mean they don't, but I've been looking and haven't seen the signs). Salt is used in parking lots and on sidewalks. I actually like this no salt thing; I've thought that they used way too much salt on the roads in Michigan.
  • Gravel is the traction item of choice, and sometimes very large pieces of gravel flying around. Cracked windshields are very common here.
  • Road conditions (and weather conditions) vary radically within a few miles depending on elevation or the presence of water, mountains or sunshine.
We have never had studded tires or 4WD before, and with both of those, we are enjoying a higher levels of confidence driving in the winter than before. The studded tires, especially, make a big difference. Overall, the biggest difference here is that there are some very, very long stretches with no businesses, towns or civilization. Extra gas on board is a good idea and not something I would scoff at.

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