New research from ISER’s Tobias Schwoerer, senior research professional, UAA’s Civil Engineering Department and the Alaska State Department of Transportation show that studded tire use in Alaska costs $13.7 million a year and reduces the asphalt surface life between 7 and 9 years, depending on traffic, location, and type of asphalt mix. Phasing out the use of studded tires topped the researchers’ list of options to reduce the cost of road damage. The state could also subsidize the purchase of non-studded tires, according to their report.  Less effective options include switching to lightweight studs, shortening the studded tire season, and educating motorists about the safety benefits of non-studded winter tires such as Blizzaks.

Tobias Schwoerer in front of a book case

Tobias Schwoerer

The report is in response to a legislative request to provide an economic analysis of the impact of studded tires on pavement in Alaska.

The project included a literature review, review of 5 years of studded tire tax data, a cost review for 20 highway projects within Southcentral and Southeast Alaska, a review of winter tire options in Alaska, parking lot and household surveys, and a present value analysis of road damage from studded tires in Alaska.

The project did not quantify safety-related trade-offs between studded and non-studded winter tires. Past research shows that new non-studded winter tire technology performs equally or better for longer across the majority of conditions and tire life-spans, though studded tires perform slightly better on clear ice at the freezing mark.

The final report found road damage from studded tire use in Alaska will cost the state $203.2 million over the next 20 years, or $13.7 million per year. Additional findings include:

  • Studded tires on a passenger vehicle cause 237% more rutting than plastic deformation from a heavy truck
  • Parking lot and household surveys show 35% (Anchorage) and 48% of personal vehicles (statewide) are currently equipped with studded tires
  • Survey results show a large gap in public awareness of non-studded winter tire options
  • Resurfacing costs associated with road damage from studded tires is 42 times larger than what the state receives from its studded tire tax, about $320,000 a year.


Media Mention:

Studded tires are tearing into Alaska finances. Do Alaskans really need them?” KTVA, Channel 11. Sept. 5, 2019.