Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced on Friday that he directed the state transportation department to reopen a highway maintenance station on the Kenai Peninsula to improve plowing and road maintenance on the Seward and Sterling highways.
The Silvertip Maintenance Station, located where the Hope and Seward highways meet, will reopen with the “equipment, personnel, and resources necessary” for the remainder of the winter snow season, Dunleavy said.
The station was closed last year by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities when the agency’s budget shrank. Maintenance was split between stations in Girdwood to the north and to the south at Crown Point, near Moose Pass.
Its closure elicited some outcry from those who depend on the singular stretch of road linking communities from Anchorage to those on the Kenai Peninsula.
The 30 miles of roadway maintained by the Silvertip station also includes Turnagain Pass, a popular spot for backcountry skiing and snowmachining. Earlier this year, a petition organized by outdoor recreation advocates and signed by more than 1,800 people and businesses was sent to Dunleavy, asking him to increase plowing in the Turnagain Pass area.
Advocates said the decreased maintenance made the area less safe for drivers and first responders and impacted access to public lands.
Soldotna Republican state Sen. Peter Micciche this week also wrote a letter to the governor urging him to reopen the station.
“In my forty years of travel on that route, I can’t remember conditions like we have experienced lately,” Micciche wrote.
In a letter to Micciche on Friday, Dunleavy said that he would work during the 2022 budget cycle to develop and institute a long-term road maintenance plan for the area.
“Public safety is and will be the highest priority of my administration. A crucial component in that pledge is keeping essential infrastructure, like our highways, in safe working order for the movement of residents, freight, and emergency services,” Dunleavy said in the letter.
There have been several crashes along the Seward Highway so far this winter season, including a fatal collision between two trucks earlier this month near Granite Creek.