The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

Rocking the Boat


The following is from the editorial page of the June 9, 1977 Seward Phoenix LOG.

In 1977... Sunday I made another bumpy ride to Anchorage and Monday traveled the same bumpy road back to Seward. I was left irritated and frustrated, like every other person who goes by road to Anchorage since the highway has deteriorated to its present condition. I was somewhat gratified to note that work is finally being done on it. I returned to find on my desk a report titled “The Effect of Substandard Roads On Vehicle Operating Costs in Alaska.” It is most interesting and bears out much of what most of Southcentral Alaska citizens have believed and been expressing:

“Rough roads adds nearly $40 million a year to Alaskan drivers’ costs because of wasted fuel, excessive tire wear and extra vehicle repairs.

“The typical Alaskan motorist drives 7,500 miles a year on bumpy, broken pavement that inflated annual vehicle operating costs by an average of $189 per driver, according to The Road Information Program of Washington, D.C.

“Fuel savings alone would amount to 192 gallons per driver each year worth more than $142, TRIP reports. The projected statewide fuel savings of 40 million gallons is 17.5 percent of the state’s annual motor fuel consumption.

“The research and information agency found: -Drivers use up to one-third more fuel when stopping or slowing to pass safely over rough, broken pavement before resuming normal speed. -Sixty-one percent of Alaska’s 1,983 miles of paved main roads are deficient. This includes 703 miles rated ‘fair’ and 503 miles considered ‘poor’ by federal inspection standards. -It costs an average of 48 percent more to drive on the 1,206 miles of ‘fair’ and ‘poor’ roads in Alaska than on ‘very good’ roads. 9.5 cents per mile versus 6.4 cents per mile.

“TRIP reports that the state’s drivers traveled 1.26 billion vehicle miles in 1975, the latest year of record, on ‘poor’ and ‘fair’ main roads at a cost of $120.2 million. Had these roads been in ‘very good’ condition, the travel would have cost only $80.7 million – a savings of $39.5 million, or $89 per driver, the agency notes.

“The roads included in TRIP’s study are the arterial and collector systems. This category includes roads under state, county and municipal jurisdiction. These heavily traveled routes account for only 44.2 percent of Alaska’s 9,941-mile total road system, but handle 85.9 percent of all traffic.

“TRIP estimates it would cost $316.9 million to rebuild the 503 miles of roads in ‘poor’ condition and $98.4 million to resurface the 703 miles of roads considered ‘fair.’ Many of the roads involved are eligible for federal aid funds covering between 70 and 90 percent of the total cost.

“An adequate road renewal program is essential to keep pace with an estimated 113 percent increase in traffic volume in Alaska within the next 10 years, says the study. Three-fourths of the state’s roads were built before 1940 and were not designed for today’s traffic volume or vehicle size and weight.

“Driving on substandard pavement increased tire wear by an average of 156 percent a year and accelerated brake, steering and suspension system war by an average of 72 percent, according to the tests which were conducted by a New York firm.”

“The report concludes that the state’s poor and very poor pavement being brought up to very good condition would help reduce fatalities, injuries and property damage form highway accidents caused by deteriorated pavement.”

I would assume this report has been or will be read and reviewed by the Alaska Department of Highways hierarchy. I certainly hope so. For there can be no excuse for letting the roads crumble till they break. Not all the roads in Alaska are 1940s vintage. The Seward Highway was first done in the early 1950s, much of it was redone following the earthquake in 1964. The new highway to Fairbanks has long stretches that are crumbling. That was done only two years ago!

Excuses just won’t wash. Road surfacing being done in Alaska at this time must be below the standards necessary for the kind of conditions experienced here – frost heaves, and other complications of weather. Newer roads are deteriorating faster than the older ones did. And in the past two years there has been little and in many cases, no maintenance being done. Is the state saving money this way? You know it isn’t. And you also know that if the roads must be rebuilt because they were allowed to deteriorate too much – they will have to be rebuilt at greater cost.

Lives are needlessly being lost, the driving public is using more fuel than it should in this time when energy savings are so important. We are all paying a high price for the neglect of the Alaska Department of Highways and the legislature and administration of our state.


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