Roads overcome isolation

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, January 24, 2005

I rarely if ever see letters to the editor that are favorable in regards to the Juneau-Skagway road. Yet the Juneau polls generally indicate a fairly even split in opinion. I for one am glad that the decision has been made to push the project forward.

I recently got back from a short but pleasant trip to Whitehorse. The planning for this trip was a real eye-opener for me. The fast ferry, the Fairweather, was out of service. The other ferries were operating on a twice-per-week schedule, which did not match the time I had available for the trip. Air North had just announced that it was discontinuing service between Whitehorse and Juneau. Air Skagway had flights, weather permitting; however, the car rental in Skagway was closed for the month. In short, there was no alternative to the ferry.

The Fairweather is again in danger of being out of service due to a labor dispute. At any rate, in February, it will be out of service for three weeks for repairs. Juneau truly has a connectivity problem, not to mention the family travel costs associated with boat or air travel in comparison to vehicular travel. And with the Legislature about to begin the session, the return ferry from Haines was full to capacity with cars and trucks.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. government, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank are funding the reconstruction of the country's national highways. These include roads through terrain more mountainous and snowbound than the Juneau-Skagway route. It is of sufficient importance there to reconstruct a road which connects, for instance, the Tajiks and Uzbecks in the north of the Hindu Kush Range to the Pashtuns in the capital city of Kabul, even if this requires work on a two-mile long tunnel at the summit, the rehabilitation of several snow galleries in areas prone to avalanches, and the construction of several bridges.

The villages of Norway's fiord lands, Russia, and Canada arguably depend on ground transportation as a transportation alternative to a greater extent than Alaska does. In Kashmir, the government is designing a four-lane road through the Himalayas to Srinigar. It is interesting to find that, for so long a time, Alaska's capital did not warrant the same treatment. Juneau is a lovely capital city, but it deserves better access.

Michael S. Nyquist


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