Murkowski orders road maintenance to continue

Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2002

Gov. Frank Murkowski directed state transportation officials to continue highway and aviation maintenance at last year's levels on Wednesday.

In Juneau, the order means state roads that had been cut from the state's maintenance list will be plowed and sanded this winter. The state earlier had eliminated plowing on Auke Nu, Channel Vista Drive, Chilkat Road, Dotson's Landing, Engineer's Cutoff Spur, part of Montana Creek Road, Nine Mile Creek Road, Otter Way, Point Stephens Road, Point Stephens Spur Road and Skaters Cabin Road.

The move by the Republican governor would effectively disregard more than $6 million in budget cuts made by the GOP-controlled Legislature under former Gov. Tony Knowles.

The announcement was made late Wednesday through a press statement from the governor's office. Murkowski was traveling out of state.

The order takes effect immediately, Murkowski spokesman John Manly said.

Lawmakers had approved $6.5 million in transportation cuts along with cuts in other departments under Knowles, a Democrat, arguing the state was facing a budget deficit of more than $700 million.

The cuts forced the closure of some state parks, stalled winter maintenance in some regional roads, and forced departments to make other cutbacks.

Before leaving office this year, Knowles had directed the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to continue winter maintenance on the Steese Highway and Circle Airport despite the funding shortfalls.

Murkowski's order also restores funding cuts to portions of the Denali Highway, several roads in the Interior and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and several airports. It also included $85,000 to rehire personnel and $58,000 for a janitorial contract.

Murkowski will request supplemental funding from the Legislature when it returns for the 2003 session, a statement said.

"I think we will be able to work with the Legislature and find some efficiencies elsewhere," Manly said.

Manly estimated it would cost the state about $2.9 million to maintain the previous year's level of funding for the roads and airports.

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