Alaska editorial: State's road construction plans are encouraging

Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2003

This editorial appeared Sunday in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

We're beginning to get a feel for this new kind of talk coming out of Juneau, and we like it.

People are talking about building things and the leaders of our state have not talked that way for some time.

Sen. Gary Wilken forwarded a resolution supporting construction of a road linking the Chena and Circle hot springs resorts, and the resolution made it through its first Senate committee last week. Other senators, following Wilken's lead, even added a few of their ideas to the docket.

Wilken said that he had, in fact, introduced the bill in the hopes it would become a wish list of road proposals for legislators to forward to the congressional delegation and to Gov. Frank Murkowski.

The state House voted recently to forward a resolution urging the governor to encourage the Alaska Railroad Corp. to build an extension from its terminus at Eielson Air Force Base another 70 miles to Fort Greely to supply the missile defense facility under construction there. And last week, Gov. Murkowski said in a press conference that his cabinet is narrowing its proposals for new roads, with projects near Delta and on the North Slope rising to the top of the priority list. The cabinet has challenged Revenue Commissioner Bill Corbus to be innovative in searching for construction finances - beyond the millions available through federal highway funds.

We can thank the governor for this kind of talk; part of his campaign platform included proposals to expand Alaska's road system to spur development.

Our cautious side makes us want to know more details before we start bulldozing the countryside, but we know from experience that there is plenty of time for financial planning, design and environmental assessment. First, there must be a dream.

The Murkowski administration is encouraging leaders to think creatively about building infrastructure that will boost Alaska's prosperity. Any good entrepreneur first has a dream and sets goals. Then the plan comes together on how to make the dream into reality.

A quote in the News-Miner last week from Sen. Wilken about his hot springs loop idea brought it home. "This resolution simply says, 'Let's look,' " Wilken said. "This is my seventh year here and this is the first year that we've had the opportunity to talk about building roads and have had some support."

Sen. Wilken and Gov. Murkowski and others who share these visions have our support.

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