Studded tires are tearing into Alaska's finances. Do Alaskans really need them?
According to a recent report from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, repairs to roads across Alaska due to damage from studded tires cost the state $13.7 million a year, despite the state’s best efforts to fight the issues.
"We've tried many different technologies in pavement design life such as adding harder aggregate, different binders, the newest technology that is being used in other parts of the country to combat truck loads and such. But unfortunately, those aren't really keeping up with the wear that studded tires cause," said DOTPF research manager Anna Bosin.
In addition, the DOTPF says the life expectancy for its roads is around 15 years, but studs are cutting that down to six to eight years.
In 2016, stage legislators asked the department for data on the economic impacts to Alaska roadways from studded tires and to quantify the problem.
The Civil Engineering Department and the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage worked together and completed the research this May.
Osama Abaza, a professor of civil engineering at UAA, prepared the report. He says there are simple things that can be done to address the issue and still keep the public safe.
One way is to make more people aware that tire technology has changed over the years and non-studded winter tires are just as safe and effective as studs.
“Overall, on average, the new tire technology is actually performing just as good or even better than the studded tires,” said ISER research economist Tobias Schwoerer.
Studded tires do outperform non-studded on clear ice around the freezing point, Schwoerer said, but other conditions in Alaska – like slush and snow – favor non-studded tires.
Also, studded tires won’t stop as quickly on bare pavement. On the other hand, they are a better option for driving up and down mountainsides.
For studded tire loyalists, Abaza recommends considering switching from heavy studs to light.
"The difference between studs is simply how much damage each one is going to really impact the pavement, but as a function there is no difference whatsoever," Abaza said.
Lighter studs are less expensive too because they don’t carry the $5 fee that heavy studs do.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.
MORE NEWS FROM KTVA: