ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Transportation officials are asking Alaska's tire dealers to encourage use of lighter weight tire studs, which reportedly could save the state an estimated $2.5 million a year in highway maintenance costs. Alaska spends about $5 million annually to repair pavement damage caused by studded tires. Experts believe this cost could be reduced by half if all motorists were to switch to lighter weight studs.
A bill to mandate use of lighter-weight studs in metal-studded tires was never brought up for a vote last year in the state's legislature—apparently the result of a prolonged political battle over whether billboards should be permitted for the first time along Alaska's highways.
With the issue now resolved in favor of billboards, the proposed mandate for lighter-weight studs may come up for reconsideration by the legislature this year. Transportation officials, meanwhile, are hoping for voluntary compliance from those who install and sell studs and the Alaskan motorists who purchase and use studded tires.
Mandating use of lighter-weight studs has won the support of several of the state's most prominent tire dealers, according to Tony D. Barter, materials engineer for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in Anchorage.
Dealers, Mr. Barter said, were among the first to recognize and urge highway officials to do something about what he said is ``quite a problem with pavement wear from studded tires'' in the state.
While Alaska is sparsely populated, nearly half its 550,000 residents are concentrated in the Anchorage area, where roughly one in two cars uses studded tires in winter months, Mr. Barter said.
In particular, he credits dealer James Johnson of Johnson's Tire Supply in Anchorage with pushing state highway officials to make more effective use of knowledge gained from 20 years of research by the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Finland on studded tire use.
And that's exactly what Alaskan highway officials have been trying to do over the last two years, Mr. Barter said. The current campaign encouraging greater use of light-weight studs is a part of that effort.
In fact, at the International Symposium on Cold Region Development in Anchorage May 5-8, Mr. Barter gave a technical paper telling how Alaska is using this Scandinavian research to reduce its highway maintenance costs and suggesting that other states might derive similar benefits.
He said at least four other U.S. states—Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Idaho—face similar problems of roadway damage from studded tires. Oregon, he said, is spending an estimated $40 million annually and Washington $10.5 million for such repairs.
Mr. Barter is part of a group organized by the Federal Highway Administration in Portland, Ore., to share the Scandinavian research findings with these and other states.
The Scandinavian research, he said, indicates lighter weight studs—those weighing 1.1 grams or less according to Alaska's definition—reduce pavement wear by 50 percent vs. conventional studs.
This is not because they are softer than conventional steel-jacketed studs, Mr. Barter said, but because they strike the road surface with less kinetic energy than their heavier-weight counterparts.
Such research also suggests that pavement wear can be cut another 30 percent by the use of wear-resistant Stone Mastic Asphalt and more durable aggregates in highways.
Alaska has been using Stone Mastic Asphalt for two years and will install its first roadway using the more durable new aggregates this summer, Mr. Barter said.