Road crews may return to maintenance stations in Nikiski and Moose Pass this fall, thanks to a funding change legislators proposed Tuesday.
A separate proposal would transfer money in the current year's supplemental budget to pay for plowing roads this spring closed by winter snows.
Safety concerns prompted the change, said Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof.
"The decrease in service created a situation that was not safe for those traveling in the area," he said Tuesday in a prepared statement from his Juneau office.
"Many of our children travel by school bus along the highways that were affected by the maintenance closures, causing concern for their safety if the roads cannot be maintained to reasonable levels. Many constituents called me, sharing their concern over this decrease in safety, so I searched out the necessary funds to reopen the stations."
The funds under discussion are $1.5 million for the 2000-2001 fiscal year. The proposal would transfer that amount from the Highway Working Capital Fund, which pays for state vehicles, into the highway maintenance fund, sources in the senator's office said.
The money would be used to reopen stations closed last year at Nikiski (called the North Kenai Maintenance Station), Moose Pass, Willow, Trims, Birch Lake and Kalsin Bay on Kodiak.
The DOT maintenance supervisor for the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak, George Church, was out of state and unavailable for comment. But his administrative assistant, Lynn Friendshuh, said she was skeptical that the state would find enough money to reopen the Nikiski station.
Budget cuts last year forced the DOT to delete two positions and give up maintenance equipment. She estimated it would cost at least $300,000 to reopen the facility.
Loss of the stations, especially Nikiski, has affected roadwork and plowing in the area, Friendshuh said.
"It has been a real hard year. Our response time has been a little slow, but the weather didn't help us any," she said.
"We would love nothing more that to be able to restaff that station."
Both proposals came from the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Facili-ties, which Torgerson chairs. The subcommittee oversees the budget for the DOT and serves under the Senate Finance Committee, which Torgerson co-chairs.
The subcommittee recommendations will not go into effect unless the full Finance Committee and both houses of the Legislature approve them. That may be a lengthy process, his aides said.
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