By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Commissioner for DOT visits Valdez on a good will mission

Officials praises ability of state employees to deliver under big budget cuts


November 8, 2017

Alaska Dept. of Transportation Commission Marc Luiken visited Valdez last week.

"I had asked Ryan and Jason if we could just go out and visit people out in the field," he said. "I really just wanted to go out and talk to folks in our maintenance districts."

In the current climate of budget cuts, station closures and more job positions disappearing, Luiken said he hoped to see first hand how DOT is coping - and still delivering.

"And try to do it before the season really starts, we managed to do that I think," he said. "That was really the motivation behind it. Talk to folks and tell them how much we appreciate them."

The commissioner said Valdez appears to be holding up well.

"Robert's doing a great job," he said. "I think our folks really do a fantastic job. They are Alaskans, they are people who live in this community."

Luiken was referring to Robert Dunning, the Valdez manager for DOT.

"I'm really learning as I've been on this trip," Luiken said.

In a tight budget climate, Luiken said he is impressed with how various DOT stations are coping with less money and often, the same amount of responsibility.

"We're finding ways to do the same amount of work with less money or less people," he said, but also noted that DOT will not necessarily be able to keep absorbing the cuts.

Luiken said technology, such as tow plows, have helped fill the gap in larger areas with bigger road systems.

"Its a really efficient way to clear snow," he said.

Slide-in sanders cut time, as well as a technology in use in Valdez such as the GPS guided snow plows that allow employees to clear roads during white out snow conditions.

"They've got some really cool equipment they use," he said.

Dunning said that the Thompson Pass station, which became a seasonal station during recent budget cuts, began the process of opening for the snow season midway through last month.

"This year I had them, up there the week of the 16th," Dunning said, noting that it takes awhile to bring it back to life after closing for the summer months.

"They're back up and running," Luiken said.

Luiken also address the issues facing the Alaska Marine Highway, which serves not only Valdez, but numerous communities off of the road system.

"I am really engaged with the reform for Southeast project," the commissioner said, regarding the ongoing process to try to bring stability to the AMHS. "I think they've got some really good recommendation as well as some things we'll be able to implement before we do some major reform."

Yes, complaints about unstable service to roadless communities has been heard, loud and clear. The solution?

"The need for consistent, stable funding," he said. "because that allows our department, our marine highway system, to be able to publish a stable reliable schedule, which is what people want."

Valdez Star photo

From left to right: DOT Commissioner Marc Luiken, Ryan Anderson, Northern Region Director, Jason, and Valdez manager Robert Dunning.


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