ANCHORAGE, Alaska-Warring factions in the studded snow tire debate may find compromise in lightweight studs offering similar traction as traditional studs, while minimizing road damage. Sweden is switching to lightweight studs, and also limiting the number of studs in one tire, said Bo Simonsonn, chief engineer of the Swedish National Road Administration, at the Winter Cities Conference in Anchorage March 8.
Mr. Simonsonn was one of several speakers at a seminar on the pros and cons of tire studs. He and Asko Saarela, of the Technical Research Center of Finland, delivered the consensus reached after years of Scandinavian studies: that tire studs do cause road damage, but help prevent accidents and save lives.
``The Scandinavians look at the whole picture,'' said Bruno Wessel, president of Bruno Wessel Inc., a Sarasota, Fla., firm that distributes tire studs. To consider accident data as well as road surface statistics produces study results that are ``overwhelmingly in favor'' of tire studs, he said.
Mr. Wessel and David Esch, an Alaska Department of Transportation engineer, represented opposing sides in the stud debate.
Every studded tire in Alaska adds $50 to the state's road maintenance costs, Mr. Esch told mayors and officials from 50 far northern cities worldwide.
The annual cost of fixing ruts from tire studs is about $5 million, he said, adding that one stretch of road in east Anchorage developed ruts ranging from two to four inches deep because of studs.
But Mr. Wessel said the Alaska DOT depended on studies dating from the 1970s. ``Since then there have been enormous improvements in road surfacing,'' he said. ``Some new surfaces increase road life by 200 to 500 percent at a cost increase of 20 to 40 percent.''
The Alaska DOT also failed to consider other causes of road wear, Mr. Wessel said. ``Our own government says trucks are the big cause of road wear. An 80,000-pound truck causes damage equal to 9,200 passes by a passenger vehicle.''
Mr. Wessel said he is working on draft legislation for states to phase in lightweight studs. ``It looks like the largest tire dealer in Alaska is going to put them in his tires starting this year,'' he said.
The Alaska legislature has asked Mr. Esch to write legislation requiring lightweight studs in the state. They won't change the price of studded tires much, he said, and may help reduce road wear.