Silvertip Maintenance Station

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

While the Kenai Peninsula still has fall colors near sea level, winter is slowly but surely lowering its white curtain across the mountains. Lowland drivers can probably put off tire changes for a bit yet, but anyone planning a trip to Anchorage should prepare for inclement conditions.

“Turnagain Pass, because it gets the moisture from the ocean, it can really be very different than Kenai Peninsula or Anchorage weather. It’s its own system. So, just be cautious, make sure you’re checking that before you head out,” said Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. “Be prepared, be sure that you have good tires, you’re prepared for the potential of winter driving conditions at all times. Make sure you have some stuff in the car that, should you get stranded, you can at least be comfortable.”

McCarthy says the Silvertip Maintenance Station, at the junction of the Seward and Hope highways, is staffed and ready for winter. The station was closed due to budget cuts and declining fuel tax revenue in 2019, leaving maintenance operators to come from Girdwood and Crown Point to cover Turnagain Pass and the Summit Lakes area. After a public outcry, the station was re-opened last year. McCarthy says four of the five positions are filled but it’s a tight labor market, so hiring has been challenging.

“You almost can’t go to any business without seeing those help wanted signs. … Yeah, we are literally competing for good employees and, hopefully, we’ll have that position filled shortly,” McCarthy said.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Soldotna resident Jim Cockrell was named the new commissioner for the state Department of Public Safety.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the appointment in Kenai on Tuesday. Cockrell replaces Amanda Price, who resigned in February, citing in part disagreements with the governor over the role of the department in rural communities.

Hannah Etengoff

For four and a half hours Monday night, the only road to the Kenai Peninsula was blocked in both directions by an avalanche near Summit Lake.

The avalanche hit around 4:20. Hannah Etengoff was driving back home to Kenai with her husband and dogs.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

After over a year hiatus, the Silvertip Maintenance Station is up and running again.

Silvertip covers a 60-mile stretch of the Seward Highway, including Turnagain Pass. The state wrote the station out of its budget in 2019 but agreed to open it again in December following an outpouring of concern from commercial truck drivers, recreationists and Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche.

Redoubt Reporter

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has approved four long-term, non-permanent positions for hire for the Silvertip Maintenance Station on the Seward Highway.

Due to budget cuts, the Silvertip station, which covers plowing and maintenance for a large part of the Seward Highway, closed last year. Public pressure and a push from Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche prompted the state to agree to reopen the station late last month.

Alaska 511

The Silvertip Maintenance Station may be small but it covers a well-traveled, 60-mile swath of the Seward Highway, stretching from Moose Pass up through Turnagain Pass and the 17-mile Hope Highway.

Facing a dwindling budget, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities closed the station last winter and relied on neighboring stations to pick up the slack. But an outpouring of pushback from local travelers and Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche has prompted the state to reopen the station, promising a restoration of full-time plowing and road maintenance to the area this winter.