Best access not considered

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I am writing to comment on the Juneau Access Project being discussed in our communities. Several things bear mentioning. First, the Department of Transportation name for this project is a misnomer, as the DOT is clearly only interested in the road, not in improving access to Juneau. It is not a secret that the current Murkowski administration is not supportive of Alaska Marine Highway System, so any alternatives that are not the preferred one are not really under serious consideration by the powers that be. The ferry system is more economical, safer, more reliable (as one gentleman aptly put it at the Feb. 16 public comment hearing, "I have yet to see the ferry system delayed by avalanches"), more environmentally benign, is preferred by a majority of folks in the three communities that would be most affected, and more appropriate for Southeast Alaska's geography.

Second, most of the comments that I have heard in support of the road system were, to be quite blunt, of a petty and short-sighted, selfish nature. Along the lines of "I want to moose hunt in the interior," or "I want to go when I want to go" and "golf and shop in Whitehorse." Are these truly reasons to sacrifice one of the most amazing aesthetic and recreational coastlines, a fragile biological wonder and our uniquely secure community?

Environmental integrity, traditional recreational opportunities, secure community, safe and reliable ferry system are reasons to keep and improve upon the current marine-based transportation system. These reasons to keep Juneau separated from the road system are of a much more far-sighted nature, and people who follow us here in the future will be appreciative of our vision to keep Juneau and Southeast Alaska unique.

Third, many comments have been made about the state capital being isolated from the rest of the state. This is a smoke-screen; the administration's real intent is opening up this area for extractive industry. A road will not change that isolation from interior Alaska. While corporate financial interests have priority access to our government officials, there will always be a pull to move the capital to points north. There is no necessity or historical precedent for a state capital to be in the economic or population center of a given state. Look at Albany, Sacramento, Salem, Helena, states large and small, the list is long. Will we get dragged down by that old line?

Mark Robertson


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