Governor did Juneau a disservice by decision

Posted: Monday, February 14, 2000

The current ferry schedule allows for Juneau/Skagway travel on 16 of 31 days during January at $210 per round-trip for two people. Road access allows travel any time of any day for the cost of a tank of gas. A five-day closure due to snowslides, (re: Seward Highway) still allows ten more travel days than ferries.

The road to Haines cost approximately $230 million. In perspective, the new road to Whittier (population 250) is costing over $60 million, the ferry Kennicott cost over $70 million, and the Anchorage Airport expansion is costing $230 million. Based on this, road access to Juneau can certainly be justified.

Skagway is afraid that Juneau access would ruin their local economy, but fail to mention road access to Whitehorse, which has a population base and shopping equivalent to Juneau's. Skagway is not clamoring to close that road access. In fact, when the railroad closed down, it was Skagway demanding road access to save their economy.

Road access won't stop future capital move efforts, but will eliminate one of the main arguments for it. Road access will certainly strengthen Juneau's argument for keeping the Capitol. According to 20-year state population projections, Southeast Alaska (75,000) will have marginal growth, while Mat-Su will double (100,000+). Do the math and wait for legislative redistricting!

Governor Knowles did Juneau a disservice. One fast ferry has less than half the capacity of the Malaspina, and is projected to cost $8 million annually to maintain and operate. It is questionable whether this vessel could operate the Lynn Canal in stormy winter weather, or cruise at top speed without its wake causing serious environmental and safety problems. And the next time the Malaspina needs to be remodeled the legislature may just mothball it, leaving us with one, small, slow, fast ferry. Thanks Tony, for nothing, and hey, are you still going to live here when your term is up?

Rich Poor

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