FAIRBANKS — An experimental implement designed to crush ice with a wheel and rows of metal spikes made its debut on Fairbanks roads this month.
The state’s new Raiko icebreaker came to Fairbanks Nov. 18. It did well on its initial passes on the Johansen Expressway, Airport Way and other high-priority roads, according to Dan Schacher, the state Department of Transportation’s maintenance supervisor in Fairbanks.
”It’s definitely a tool we’re looking forward to using more,” he said.
Other Fairbanks thoroughfares, such as Goldstream Road, Sheep Creek Road and Farmers Loop, are on the list to have their ice crushed with the new tool. But they will have to wait. On Monday, the tool was sent to the Anchorage area for at least two weeks, Schacher said. The icebreaker is an experimental implement and is being shared among DOT regions.
The icebreaker is made by Finnish company Sah-Ko Oy and it attaches to the front of a plow truck like any snow plow. It costs about $45,000, or about twice as much as the department’s snow plows, Schacher said. It’s about nine feet wide and weighs about 3,800 pounds.
The tool has done the best on thicker ice, Schacher said.
”The thinner ice, it just mixes it up a bit, but the thick ice it’ll just shatter it,” he said.
The icebreaker is an alternative to the DOT’s usual method of fighting hard-packed ice — scraping the crust with serrated grader blades and underbelly plows.
Finding a good method for breaking down stubborn ice has been a priority since the Thanksgiving 2010 ice storm left the Interior with iced-over roads through breakup. This year’s early November ice storm hasn’t been as bad because it wasn’t followed by cold weather like 2010, Schacher said.
The icebreaker is one of two new pieces of heavy equipment in the Fairbanks area this winter. Also recently introduced is a tow plow, a trailer that extends behind and to the side of a plow truck allowing it to plow two lanes with one pass. Unlike the experimental icebreaker, the tow plow is a permanent tool for the Fairbanks area.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.