To the surprise of many of us in Southeast Alaska, Gov. Sarah Palin has paid attention to the interests of all Alaskans in making policy decisions and has fulfilled her pledge of transparency in conducting state business. I am optimistic that she will address two controversial issues of great concern to Southeast Alaskans: the Lynn Canal "Road to Nowhere" and the aging Alaska Marine Highway System, both of which compete for diminishing federal transportation funds. A hopeful sign was her cancellation, shortly after assuming office as governor, of state orders for construction materials for the Lynn Canal road.
Objective consideration of the facts, pro and con, clearly lead to the conclusion that the road would be a costly boondoggle and that the state should not waste any more money on it at this time. A state Department of Transportation spokesman recently admitted that the agency has no good estimates of how much it would cost to complete or when it could be completed. DOT should abandon its promotion of the road and redirect its emphasis to improving the marine highway system and existing connecting roads.
An essential first step is a comprehensive long-range marine transportation plan for the entire state, by qualified experts. It would include a staged replacement schedule of the aging high-maintenance mainline fleet with new fuel-efficient vessels.
The billion-dollar endowment fund for transportation infrastructure that Palin proposed in Anchorage would be a very appropriate source of funding for upgrading the ferry system.
Ted Merrell Sr.
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