Lodge owners along Denali Highway seek help

Posted: Friday, September 06, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Lodge owners along the Denali Highway are looking to legislators for help.

With summer ending, they are worried about snow removal and want legislators to get a firsthand look at the road's deteriorating condition.

''We want them to look at the road and get a good idea of what we're up against,'' said Nadine Johnson, longtime owner of the Tangle River Inn, 20 miles from the highway's eastern terminus at Paxson.

Although Rep. John Harris hasn't driven on the 135-mile highway in a couple of years, he has heard the complaints. ''The road has become very difficult to pass over at any amount of speed,'' said Harris, whose district includes the eastern end of the highway.

Harris told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he will be at the meeting with lodge owners Sunday at the inn.

Area business owners are frustrated with rough road conditions since maintenance was cut July 1 because of lack of funding.

In the past, the Department of Transportation has kept the highway free of snow from May 15 until Nov. 1 as part of its summer maintenance schedule.

''As it stands, if there is a 2-foot snowfall tonight, we're all stuck in the lodge,'' said Gary Nance, co-owner of MacLaren River Lodge, located 42 miles from Paxson.

Lodge owners also face a problem in not knowing when the snow will be cleared from the highway at the end of the season, Johnson said. That makes planning for next year, she said.

''Are we supposed to be taking reservations or what?'' Johnson asked.

A Department of Transportation official confirmed that the department does not intend to do any maintenance, including snow removal, unless directed by Legislature.

''We do have our hands tied to a large degree,'' said Dennis Poschard, special assistant to the DOT commissioner.

Poschard, who noted the department made $3.4 million in cuts to accommodate its reduced budget, called the lodge owners' meeting with legislators a good move.

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