It’s been an unprecedented year for snowfall in Anchorage. In fact, if you placed all the snow that has been removed from Anchorage streets on a five-acre lot, the snow would be 250 feet deep. That’s a lot of snow, and our Street Maintenance employees are literally working around the clock to remove it as fast as they can.
Residents have asked a lot of questions about snow removal this year. Let me explain how the process works.
Here is the order of priorities for snow plowing and removal:
- Plow and sand all arterial and collector streets, school hazardous walking routes, transit bus routes, and all sidewalks and trails in the MOA Right of Way;
- Plow and haul the downtown business district;
- Plow residential streets;
- Haul hazardous school walking routes;
- Haul arterials and collector streets;
- Haul and blow back residential streets/cul-de-sacs (NOTE: there are 1,382 cul-de-sacs in the MOA).
Once more than four inches of snow has fallen, the MOA Street Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Department’s goal is to plow all MOA-maintained streets within 72 hours of the last snowflake falling. This is called a plowout, and they begin in one section of town, and end in another. Street Maintenance personnel rotate the areas of town that are plowed first and last in an effort to be fair to all neighborhoods. Residents can check the status of a plowout on the M&O website, which is linked from www.muni.org.
It’s helpful to understand the difference between plowing and hauling, or snow removal. Hauling begins only when all roads have been fully plowed, and the downtown business district and school walking routes are the first in line to have snow hauled away (see the above list). M&O understands the frustration that people feel when neighborhood roads become choked down and sight distances are reduced. Every resource available is working around the clock to catch up on the backlog. With the recent break in the weather, excellent progress is being made.
Although Anchorage has experienced some thawing and rain this winter, M&O employees have already removed 80+ inches of snow off of all 1,300 lane miles of MOA roads. Since this snow season started, M&O personnel have hauled more than 70,000 truckloads of snow from MOA roads. In addition, the average number of plowouts each winter is six; to date, MOA staff have already completed eight plowouts, with more than two months of winter still to come. Moving this much snow at one time is equivalent to mowing grass that is a foot tall; although you are mowing the same area, it takes 3-4 times longer to accomplish the task. This is what we are facing when it comes to hauling neighborhood streets and cul-de-sacs.
It is important to emphasize that MOA Street Maintenance has the physical resources, and a fully funded budget; we have the funds we need to operate. That said, time has been scarce due to the frequent, unrelenting snowfalls. Every time a snowfall occurs, crews have to move back to priority one (see the above list).
Street Maintenance is currently about 75 percent complete at hauling residential areas, and will finish in approximately two weeks assuming no more significant snowfall occurs.
M&O maintains a feedback form on its website. If you think a particular road or area of town needs attention, report it online.