More than 60 Juneau residents spoke at Monday night’s Assembly meeting on a proposed resolution in support of the Juneau Access Project, which was recently axed from the state budget by Gov. Bill Walker.
The project, colloquially known as “The Road,” would have extended Juneau’s road system to a new ferry terminal north of the Katzehin River. A short ferry ride would connect that terminal with Haines and Skagway.
Ninety percent of $574 million price tag was to be have been paid by the federal government, with the state required to pay the remaining 10 percent.
The resolution authored by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly is a statement of support for Department of Transportation and Public Facilities efforts to complete the construction of the East Lynn Canal Highway and states that completion of the project is a major priority for the community.
The resolution also asks the Juneau Legislative Delegation to support maintaining the previously appropriated funds, and was amended to also ask the Alaska Legislature to maintain those funds to be held available to allow the project to proceed.
The majority of the speakers supported the project, which they said would improve access to the capital and create jobs.
“The road is an equalizer,” said Murray Walsh, who noted that the project has been a dream of the state of “many, many years.”
Those in opposition cited its expense and the danger created by multiple avalanche chutes along the proposed road.
The resolution was sending the wrong message regarding Juneau’s legislative priorities, argued Rob Cadmus.
“We only get a limited number of asks,” he said, calling for the city to prioritize funding for basic services, local transportation needs and education.
Assembly member Jesse Kiehl appeared to agree, saying, “We need to think hard about what we fund,” and citing possible projects such as an extension of the road in North Douglas. “There’s a lot we can do.”
“Juneau is deeply divided over this issue,” noted Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski. “We couldn’t have engineered it any better.”
The Assembly voted 6 to 3 in favor of the resolution, with Kiehl, Loren Jones and Gladziszewski voting against.
• Reporter Liz Kellar can be reached at 523-2246 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.