KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — A state lawmaker has asked the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to take immediate action to address a growing pothole problem.

Independent Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan wrote to the department about potholes on the South Tongass Highway, The Ketchikan Daily News reported Saturday.

Ortiz said in an email to Department of Transportation Commissioner John MacKinnon that the highway is in a “deplorable condition.”

A transportation department improvement project that has been in the planning stages since the 2019 fiscal year includes the pothole-ridden stretch between U.S. Coast Guard Base Ketchikan and the City of Saxman.

But Southcoast Region Information Officer Sam Dapcevich said the department has not planned any construction related to the project this year.

The highway has been plagued with potholes for years, but a week of subfreezing temperatures followed by warmer weather in mid-January exacerbated the pothole problem on the 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) section.


The potholes “seem to have been intensified after this recent freeze that we had,” Ortiz said in an interview. “Those potholes have gotten bigger and (there have been) more of them since the freeze.”

Dapcevich confirmed the recent cold weather contributed to the potholes.

“The rain events that we’ve had, and then the freeze and thaw cycles, are prime conditions to create potholes,” Dapcevich said. “The freeze-thaw weather is rough on roads, creates a lot of potholes. They can happen overnight from this.”

Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Rodney Dial also wrote to MacKinnon, describing the highway’s condition as “a hazard to life and property.”

Dial’s letter was awaiting approval from the borough assembly before being sent.