Access road issue back before Assembly

Public comment to be heard at 7 p.m. today

Posted: Monday, February 12, 2007

The Assembly is scheduled to hear public comment tonight on a resolution that would continue Juneau's official endorsement of a northbound highway.

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Public testimony will be taken at the 7 p.m. meeting in the Assembly Chambers on a resolution supporting the construction of the Juneau access project up the east side of Lynn Canal.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford, a longtime supporter of the road, presented the resolution, which backs construction of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities project from Echo Cove to the Katzehin River.

"It just says that the city and borough Assembly is for the road, and that we support the State of Alaska in getting it completed," Sanford said.

The resolution follows Gov. Sarah Palin's termination in December of a preliminary construction road for the project.

"The main purpose is to make sure that the governor knows and the people know that Juneau supports the road," Sanford said.

Assembly member Bob Doll said he does not support the proposed resolution because it does not accurately portray the views of the entire community.

"The difficulty with the resolution is it purports to be representative of the views of the people of Juneau, and it is not," he said.

The project that would be built on sensitive habitat through the popular recreation area of Berners Bay. The community is still split on the issue, he said.

"It is as divisive as it has always been, and there is no justification in my view for the Assembly to leap to the conclusion that this resolution would represent (the community)," Doll said.

The project also seems to be less economically viable than previously imagined, Doll said. A recent report indicates that there are more areas along the proposed route that are susceptible to rock, land and snowslides that would inevitably drive the cost, he said.

"I had hoped that (the project) had faded into the background but this resolution raises all of the old issues again, except in this case I think the project is even more vulnerable," Doll said.

Public testimony on the resolution will be limited to two minutes per person, and those wishing to speak must be present to sign up. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, public testimony may end up being time consuming, Sanford said.

"I would think that the people on the extreme ends of the issue will show up and our community has enough of those to fill up the Assembly room," he said.

Sanford said the resolution is the key item of business before the Assembly, and he believes the body will vote in favor of it. The issue has been one of the most significant issues before the community for years and it needs to have some closure for the community to move forward, he said.

"It's just been before us for so long and has been so divisive for so long that it needs to be put to rest in one way or the other," Sanford said. "It needs to be built or not built."

• Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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