ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Residents and businesses in Southcentral Alaska have urged state officials to increase funding for winter road maintenance and plowing along the Seward Highway in anticipation of increased outdoor recreation during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 1,600 people and businesses mailed a petition to Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy Oct. 23 requesting increased plowing in the Turnagain Pass area, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.
The highway provides the only land link between Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities last year closed the Silvertip Maintenance Station because of a budget decrease.
The stretch of road served by the Silvertip station, located where the Hope and Seward highways meet, was split between maintenance stations in Girdwood to the north and Crown Point to the south.
The 30-mile (48-kilometer) stretch previously covered by the Silvertip station included Turnagain Pass, a popular area for backcountry skiing and snowmobiling.
Regional outdoor advocates, ski guides and safety officials said the service changes made the region less safe for drivers and first responders and decreased access to public lands.
Nick D’Alessio, who owns a guide business and helped write the petition, said Turnagain Pass was inaccessible at times last year and caused business losses.
The Anchorage Assembly passed a resolution last week recommending Dunleavy make immediate maintenance additions along the affected highway section and develop a sustainable budget prioritizing roadways.
The state Department of Transportation would like to reopen the Silvertip station, but first must consider how additional funds can be used to benefit the state, spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy said.
“At this point, we have more needs than we have resources, so we do have to be very judicial if we did get additional money,” McCarthy said.
Jeff Turner, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said last week that the letter was received but the office had not yet responded.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.