Juneau is the largest community on the North American continent not connected to the highway system, according to the state.
The state has proposed the construction alternative it believes will accommodate the most traffic over time. In about 30 years, the state projects Juneau would experience seven times more traffic if the road is built.
The state projects that Juneau would receive 78,000 new visitors in 2008 if its preferred road route is built. Recreational vehicle (RV) visitors to Juneau would increase from the current 3,000-4,000 to 10,000-12,000 visitors in the first year of the road. Current RV capacity is not enough to accommodate peak demand, according to the state.
The state suggests that shuttle ferries can carry passengers between Juneau and Skagway and to Haines when the highway is closed for about 35 days in the winter.
Road travel time between Auke Bay in Juneau and Skagway in the summer would be about 2 hours, and about 2.5 hours from Auke Bay to Haines.
The state's preferred alternative would cost about $4.4 million in annual maintenance and operating costs. The state estimates that not building the road will cost $10.2 million annually in maintenance and operating costs for the ferry system. When accounting for construction, refurbishment, operating costs and revenues, none of the state's road alternatives would reduce net state costs over a 30-year period. The net cost of maintaining the status quo is $7 million cheaper for the state.
The state estimates it will cost less than half as much for a family of four, traveling in a 19-foot vehicle, to use the road as it would to use the ferry system.
The state expects that no new major economic development or population growth will result from road access to Juneau, though it could cause non-cruise ship tourists to spend more time in Southeast Alaska, especially Juneau. Road access could reduce shipping costs for some industries, the state says.
The state's preferred alternative could cause increased competition for subsistence resources from recreational hunting and fishing, due to increased road access.
The state's preferred alternative would cross 61 avalanche chutes. The state says closing the road in winter keeps it from exceeding national standards for avalanche hazards.
The state's preferred road route is 325 feet from Gran Point, one of two Steller sea lion haulouts on Lynn Canal where hundreds of sea lions congregate in the winter and spring. The state plans to build walls preventing sea lions from seeing road traffic, and vice versa.
About 31 acres of essential fish habitat, 93 acres of wetlands and 629 acres of forest spread out among numerous sites would be lost under the state's preferred alternative as the result of road construction, filling and dredging. Unlike other alternatives reviewed by the state, the preferred plan avoids any known impact to fish spawning areas.
The state's preferred road route would cause a 30 percent reduction in brown bear habitat - one of the more significant wildlife impacts recorded by the state. The state believes it can reduce that impact somewhat with mitigation such as underpasses for wildlife crossings.
The state says that bridge piers placed over the Lace, Antler and Katzehin rivers would be placed 130 feet apart and not impede fish movement in the rivers.