As if Anchorage needed another reminder that winter comes later than it used to, the Assembly has decided to cut its studded tire season by two weeks.
Starting next fall, the city will not allow studded tires on the roads until Oct. 1. Previously, drivers were able to switch out their tires Sept. 15.
The matter received significant debate among Assembly members because the change would be a divergence from the statewide season.
The concern was people traveling from other areas where it snows earlier could get unfairly punished. It ultimately passed 6-3 with Assemblymen Fred Dyson and Kameron Perez-Verdia being absent.
The citation for off-season studded tire use is $50 per tire.
The shortening of the season is an attempt to limit the damage the studs do to bare pavement. The decision was in part driven by a University of Alaska Anchorage report that found the city allows studs significantly earlier than when the first snow usually hits the ground, causing roads to deteriorate at a quicker rate.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Anchorage doesn’t get an inch or more of snow depth until Oct. 25 on average.
The Assembly held a public hearing on the issue Nov. 5, with only one person, Eugene Carl Haberman, giving testimony.
Haberman, who lives in the Matanuska Valley, said many travel from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to Anchorage for work, and the shorter season would put Anchorage’s studded tire dates out of sync with those of its northern neighbors.
That was a concern Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar had also, though he was thinking farther north than the Valley. Dunbar successfully proposed an amendment stating anyone living north of the 62nd parallel can have a ticket dismissed if they show proof of address. The 62nd parallel is just south of Glennallen.
“I think writing a ticket for those folks who are doing the responsible thing on those highways is not good public policy and it’s not very neighborly," he said.
There was enough concern at the November meeting to postpone a vote until Tuesday’s meeting.
A Tuesday amendment from Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel allows vehicles with a special traction permit from the state to be exempt from Anchorage’s shortened season. She said some local employers complained that they send employees to areas outside the city where it snows more.
Several members were concerned that those living in the municipality’s hills are more likely to deal with early snow, but a clause in the ordinance is supposed to address that. The city is able to lift the stud ban in anticipation of a large storm outside of stud season.
Municipal manager Bill Falsey said in that situation, the city will inform Anchorage police and make a public announcement.
Correction: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated the policy change passed 9-3. It passed 6-3.