DOT clarifies Seward Highway winter coverage

Nov 6, 2019

Reports of icy roads and cars in the ditch over the weekend on the Seward Highway signal the start of the winter driving season on the Kenai Peninsula, and there’s been plenty of buzz about the situation with the closing of DOT’s Silver Tip maintenance yard at the Hope Cutoff.
    Coverage of that stretch of the highway is being split between the Moose Pass and Girdwood DOT yards. There will, however be a significant change in when the road is covered.
    The DOT’s Shannon McCarthy explains that it’s just two hours less coverage a day, but now, it’s all at once.
    “In the past, we had 20 hours of coverage. So we have two shifts, and we had 20 hours of coverage. So we had a little gap of time in the morning, and a little gap of time in the afternoon. And that mimics what we did in Anchorage and Soldotna as well, because we don't, we don't have 24/7 coverage, we always have a gap a time where there the operators are getting off the road, you know, writing up their, you know, kind of industry report, and then the next picture will take over,” she said. “So there's usually a two hour gap. It's only a two hour less time but it is configured differently, which I can understand why people are concerned because it leaves the highway without an operator on a regular basis for a continuous chunk from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. But that being said, we do have the ability to authorize extended hours if we're getting hit with a storm or you know something starts later. So we have some flexibility.”
    McCarthy also had a theory about why roadside grass seeding seems to be extra attractive to moose this year.
    “I think what happened is that we had a very very very dry summer and it was had a lot of rain and the grass is the one game in town before these moves for to eat, you know woody debris,” she said. “So all of our grass are native species. We work with the DNR Plant Materials Center to help select our seed mixes because we don't want to read invasive species. And we don't do anything without these guys OK, because without it, you know, we wouldn't be able to guarantee that we're getting native species you know.”
    She added that since the grass mixture is a native Alaska species, it is edible to moose.