Slick ice and a dusting of new snow made commuting on the Glenn Highway treacherous Monday morning. Alaska State Troopers responded to 31 vehicle incidents on the Glenn in their Matanuska Valley jurisdiction today according to spokesperson Megan Peters.
Anita Shell with the Anchorage Police Department said since midnight, Anchorage police responded to 87 collisions and more than 90 vehicles in distress, throughout APD’s jurisdiction. Only ten involved non life threatening injuries. APD patrols the Glenn Highway from the Knik River bridge to the city.
Wasilla to Anchorage commuter Ron Zastrow said his normal 50-minute drive time was stretched to three hours.
Everybody that I saw on the Southbound lanes was driving very slow. I didn’t see as many vehicles in the ditch as I thought I was going to see.”
Another thing Zastrow didn’t see… sand trucks heading South.
“There was no sand on the highway that I saw.”
The Glenn is a Priority One traffic artery, according to Jill Reese, media liason with the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
“Level one is of course the major highways, safety corridors, major urban and community routes. These can take up to 24 hours to clear after a winter storm. We try to get all the major traffic through, commuters and those sorts of things through first, then we go on to the lesser prioroties.”
She says DOT’s sand trucks went to work at 5 a.m., although the trucks go where they are most needed, and are not tied to any particular route.
“It’s normal, Alaska winter ice. People sometimes forget how to drive on this ice when we first get hit. Every year it is the same.”
Reese says the weather conditions are worsened, because warm tires melt the ice underneath them, and then it freezes again, so there is continuous cycle of ice and thaw. And even if the road is sanded, that doesn’t solve all the traffic woes.
“It’s not DOT’s practice, even in year’s past, to sand the entire length of a highway. We sand the approaches, the curves, intersections, those sorts of things. We rely on motorists to drive for the conditions of the road. And we will put sand on those areas as we can.”
Reese says DOT’s budget has been cut by 25 percent, along with other state agency budgets, due to the current state fiscal shortfall. And that reduction has been felt in materials the department uses, such as sand.