Mayor Bronson rolls out bolstered snowplow plans for Anchorage

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson has rolled out a bolstered plan for the city’s snowplowing and hauling this winter season. That includes using contractors for more equipment and personnel, and some additional funding for snow maintenance in his proposed 2024 city budget.

“I am confident in the work and the ability of our crews and our contractors. If this winter is anything like last year, we are ready,” Bronson said during a Friday news conference.

The mayor’s plan is intended to improve on last winter’s snow clearing challenges. Three back-to-back snowstorms last December left the city riddled with plowing issues and poor road conditions for weeks. The storms dropped 60% of the city’s average annual accumulation in under two weeks.

The city had to “initiate emergency procurement and to get more contractors in place to assist with the snow removal. But that won’t be the case anymore,” Bronson said.

This year, contracts are in place and the city is ready, he said.

“After the storms I sat down with the snow removal team to discuss what challenges they faced, the solutions needed to improve our snow removal response system going forward,” Bronson said.

The city outlined a “robust snow removal plan,” Bronson said.


The city still has the same goal of plowing out all city roads within 84 hours, or three and a half days, of substantial snowfall. The city is responsible for clearing roughly 1,300 lane-miles of municipally-managed roads, around 200 miles of sidewalks and 300 more miles of trails.

Arterials and then connector streets are prioritized before plowing of residential streets begins. Hammered by back-to-back snows, city crews ended up plowing and re-plowing the city’s main roads last winter. That left some residential streets unplowed for weeks, and many residents stuck at home.

“Just as crews got the arterial and connector roads cleared, the snow fell again, and the process had to start all over again. And because of that, the residential areas suffered,” Bronson said. “For me, in my cul-de-sac, I couldn’t get out of my driveway and I had a four-wheel drive truck. The snow kept falling we just couldn’t keep up.”

The revamped plan categorizes snowfall responses into three categories. A level one response occurs when snowfall is under 4 inches. At that level, the city focuses on plowing arterial roads and main streets, sidewalks and the Central Business District.

A level two response is triggered when snowfall is above four inches. The city plows arterials and connector streets, and declares a plow out — meaning removal happens on residential streets with the 84 hour goal — once snow stops falling.

The street maintenance manager can use contractors to add equipment and personnel to the snow removal effort or use other municipal agency resources to meet the 84-hour goal, Bronson said. And the city manager can direct police to tow illegally parked vehicles in the way of plowing operations, he said.

A level three response is “what we consider to be a snow or ice emergency,” Bronson said. When street maintenance can’t maintain roads to an acceptable level, the mayor can declare a snow emergency.

The “response will constitute maximum effort in providing all available resources, both public and private, to clear roadways,” Bronson said.

Also, the city will use an app, Rave Mobile Safety, to send out public alerts about snow removal. Residents can sign up on the municipality’s website, Bronson said.

The mayor said he is also proposing more money for snowplowing and hauling in the 2024 budget:

“I’ve added $1.5 million to the street maintenance budget that will be used to expand the snow removal contracts we have in place and allows us more flexibility to get more drivers and contract equipment should we experience an extreme snowfall event,” Bronson said during a Friday news conference.

However, that’s only a net increase of $500,000 over the total amount of money the city ended up allocating to snowplowing and removal this year, city officials pointed out during a Friday meeting on the budget.

“There’s a huge technicality there,” Assembly member Anna Brawley said during the meeting.

That’s because early in the year, the city added more money into the 2023 budget for snowplowing and hauling, due to the unexpected heavy snowfall last season and increasing costs for the services and contracts.

Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel during the meeting expressed concern over whether that would be enough to cover any cost increases and ensure the city can pay a wage that will help recruit and hire plow operators.

During the mayor’s news conference Friday, street maintenance manager Paul VanLandingham said the department has some staff vacancies and is hiring to fill those. But the department is “a little ahead of where we were last year, by five or six employees,” he said.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at