In January, after personally biking on snow and ice chunk-filled sidewalks, Bike Anchorage reached out to commuters to see what the conditions were like across town. The feedback was that many multi-use paths across the city were getting inundated with snow/ice cleared from the roads and dumped on the pathways and sidewalks of the city.
To see how we can address this maintenance issue, we reached out to the Municipality. We had hoped to sit down with both DOT and Muni maintenance departments to understand the issues involved. While we didn’t get that meeting, we did hear back from Lori Schanche, the Municipality's Non-Motorized Transportation Coordinator.
Lori told us that she had sat down with MOA Streets, MOA Parks and DOT Roads to see how we can improve maintenance and clearing of our multi-use paths and sidewalks.
You may or may not know that clearing is split between the Municipality and DOT. They each have separate crews clearing roads and pathways. DOT’s roads are the big arterials (Seward, Tudor, Raspberry, Minnesota, etc.).
The problem comes when a pathway is cleared and then afterwards, road crews come and further grade the road and spill snow and ice debris onto the once cleared pathway. Lori noted that
It can appear counter-productive as on occasions the work of one crew messes up the work of another crew. For example,sidewalks that have been cleared get big
snow chunks from the road graders – (as shown by your photo of Minnesota and Raspberry). The crew driving the road equipment is unaware that this has happened as big chunks roll down the hill.
In order to be on top of things and take care of these issues, the crews count on communication from users. We ask if you see an issue, like these big chunks of snow on a path, or a pile of snow blocking a path – please call and let us know the location. With hundreds of miles of roads, sidewalks and pathways to maintain you can imagine it is impossible to keep everything immaculate, but they really do try.
MOA street clearing hotline 343-8277
DOT street clearing hotline 338-1466
We appreciate calls and only ask that people be specific and provide;
- the location
- the issue
With this information the crews will make every effort to take care of an issue within 24 hours. If you call the State and it’s an MOA road (or vice versa), the folks who run the hotlines will relay the message to the correct party.
When we get snowfalls (as we are expected to this weekend) it can take 3-4 days to dig things out and often pathways and sidewalks can get buried a couple of times during the snow removal process. It is just the way things work, so we ask for everyone’s patience while the crews get things opened up and then cleaned up.
Lori asked that we pass this information on to all of you and also stress that the Municipality and DOT “are here to provide a service and we will do everything we can to make the pathways and roads safe for bicyclists and pedestrians. Just let us know where and we are on it.”
With this, the burden is on all of us. We need to work together to solve this problem. If you are out biking, walking or driving pull over and take a picture of the problem segment of pathway or sidewalk and then call and let MOA and DOT know. If you aren’t sure who maintains the particular segment call both and leave your message.
Finally, we know it can be really frustrating when your route is a mess and you are left to fend for yourself. The priorities seem askew here. Roads are cleared and no one comes around to then address the spillover onto our pathways. What does that say about prioritization? What does it say about the Municipality’s and DOT’s efforts to make our routes safe for all users? No matter how you cut it, the response is unfortunate and we hope to come up with better workable solutions in the future. The burden in our opinion should be on the Municipality and DOT to make sure all of our transportation routes — whether roads, pathways or sidewalks — are accessible and safe. However, for this season, the burden is on us. So let’s make the most of it by politely and respectfully reporting segments that need to be cleared. If you see that the problem isn’t addressed in a timely fashion (within a couple days) then let us know and we will raise the matter with those at both the Municipality and DOT. So store those Muni and DOT #s in your phone and report conditions when paths and sidewalks need to be cleared.
Thanks and keep biking,
Photos taken by Joe Guyette along Raspberry near Northwood and submitted to Bike Anchorage. If you see poor conditions, please take a photo and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include the date and time taken and location.