When the Kinross truck configuration was released to the public, ASAH received numerous questions, voices of concern, and objections to it. We’ve compiled a summary of those questions and concerns (including from truckers and experts in highway maintenance and construction) below. They fall into three categories: Truck configuration, Safety, and Operations.
- The truck configuration as provided by Kinross is untested and unproven on Alaska highways. It is known as a long combination vehicle (LCV) by the Alaska Department of Transportation (AKDOT).
- These LCVs will weigh up to 165,000 pounds loaded, twice as heavy as other standard trucks on Alaska roads.
- At 95 feet long, 16-axles, and 52 tires each, these trucks are made specifically for hauling mine ore, not like anything you are seeing on our roads today.
- The tractors (or power units) are equipped with a “tri-drive” system, meaning power is delivered to three drive-axles. They have a very short wheelbase (210″) making them more difficult to control. Most Alaska tractors have a 300″ wheelbase or longer.
- This LCV in a sub-Arctic environment will require extraordinarily talented operators. Can enough experienced drivers be found or will many be getting “on-the-job” training?
- 110 school bus stops per day lie along the route. How quickly and safely can these trucks stop in dark and icy conditions?
- Platooning of trucks, military convoys and RVs will create bottlenecks. How will the ore trucks be able to abide by the “rule of 5” law? Where will they have room to pull over and let others pass on our narrow two-lane roads?
- Snow tornadoes and rocks thrown from tires will be made worse by 52 tires per truck.
- AKDOT’s planned new passing lanes, now reduced from 16 to 10 due to budget constraints, will be inadequate in number and distance and require additional AKDOT maintenance and snow clearing.
- Private vehicle drivers will become frustrated and attempt to pass these long trucks in inappropriate and dangerous conditions.
- Emergency response coverage along the route is minimal. Response times in the winter may be lengthy.
- Non-steerable, tri-drive power axles cause asphalt “scrubbing” when trucks turn corners and the tires scoot across the pavement, thus increasing AKDOT’s maintenance costs.
- Several 80-year-old bridges on the route are already functionally obsolete (per AKDOT’s inspections) and it’s unknown if they can withstand the weight and frequency of these trucks. These bridges cannot be replaced in time for this ore haul.
- The bridge over Chena Hot Springs Road is also of concern. If it cannot sustain the loaded trucks going to Ft. Knox, they will need to be diverted around the bridge using the off/on ramps and manually-operated lift gates. This will cause serious traffic delays for the public and ambulance services using this intersection, 24/7/365.
- The noise study commissioned by Kinross is inadequate and does not cover the current route through Fairbanks, where the population density is highest.The study was performed in late August when it was warm and the leaves were on the trees, rather than in the cold winter conditions when noise travels more readily.
- Congestion will increase throughout the 32-mile PM2.5 non-attainment zone (especially at intersections in Fairbanks). This does not help us improve our air quality, as mandated by the EPA. The implications of this may include loss of federal highway funds and the requirement for ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) be used in home heating appliances, at increased cost to homeowners.
The Tetlin to Ft. Knox Corridor Analysis should thoroughly address all of these issues. AKDOT’s website states that “Safety is our priority and core value” and “We’re committed to Highway Safety for all users.” ASAH is counting on that. We encourage everyone to attend the upcoming meetings and make your voices heard. If you cannot attend in person, or do not want to publicly speak, you can submit your comments in writing to the Transportation Advisory Committee.