Walker still opposes The Road

Spokesman issues statement one day after Alaska Senate moves to restore partial funding

Gov. Bill Walker watches from the House gallery as legislators discuss Senate Bill 26 on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (James Brooks | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Bill Walker has not changed his opposition to the Juneau Access road project.

 

Reading a prepared statement, Walker press secretary Austin Baird said Tuesday that the governor does not intend to reverse his December 2016 decision canceling plans for a road north from the capital city.

“Governor Walker’s position on the previously proposed Juneau Access road project has not changed, but he remains committed to improving the transportation needs of Juneau,” Baird said.

The statement comes one day after the Alaska Senate approved the restoration of $21.3 million in funding for the project. That money had been transferred out of the project last year, but the Senate’s proposed capital construction and renovation budget reverses the transfer.

The $574 million Juneau Access project would have, under the preferred option selected by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, extended Juneau’s road system north to a new ferry terminal at the mouth of the Katzehein River.

More than 90 percent of the project was to have been funded by the federal government, but that still required the state to come up with about $57 million for construction.

Before Walker’s decision in late 2016, the Legislature had appropriated some $47 million for the effort. After Walker’s choice, the Legislature began considering moves to reallocate that money.

Last week, KINY-AM reported that DOT Southcoast Region Director Lance Mearig, in an address to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, said DOT was continuing its work on an environmental impact statement for the project and would be ready to proceed if the governor changed his mind.

On Wednesday, DOT spokeswoman Aurah Landau told the Empire that account of the speech was inaccurate and Mearig told the Chamber that the impact statement “will wrap up the project and provide analysis should needs change and warrant the project in the future.” KINY has since corrected its article.

The Alaska House of Representatives was expected to release its own draft of the state’s capital budget on Wednesday afternoon. If the restoration of funding for Juneau Access is approved by both the House and Senate, it could be vetoed by Walker.

Under the Alaska Constitution, governors may execute line-item vetoes on budget bills.

Asked whether Walker would exercise that power, Baird said the governor does not comment on budgetary intentions until a bill reaches his desk.

In a separate announcement, Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy said he supports Juneau Access and agrees “with the approach the Senate took to use reappropriation dollars to capture the federal dollars necessary to help build the first major road in our state in 50 years.”

Were Dunleavy or any other Republican or Democrat to replace Walker as governor it’s unclear whether he or she would be able to restart the road project from anything but scratch. The final environmental impact statement is expected in August, and at that time, a final decision is expected from the state and Federal Highway Administration.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


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