CIRCLE - The Steese Highway will remain open this winter after all.
Gov. Tony Knowles, at the end of a trip to visit the affected communities of Central, Circle, and Circle Hot Springs, said he will order the Department of Transportation to fund winter maintenance on both the road and the Circle Airport and let the Legislature next year deal with the added expense in a supplemental budget.
More than 50 Central residents and 30 from Circle told Knowles on Wednesday that the closure would decimate the infrastructures of each community, resulting in the potential loss of telephones and utilities, in closed businesses and at least one closed school, and in residents having dramatically limited access to medical services.
Knowles will order the DOT to reinstate $225,000 to keep the Steese open in the winter and another $14,400 to keep the airport open.
The issue of the Steese closure surfaced as the Legislature worked on the state operating budget. The Republican-led House and Senate cut requests from several departments, including Transportation.
Department officials issued a list of services they said would have to be curtailed if the smaller amount were approved, including winter maintenance of the Steese.