W. Douglas workgroup members exaggerate

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2007

West Douglas Development Workgroup members dismiss criticisms of the second crossing and the West Douglas project (My Turn columns on Feb. 9 and in Monday's Juneau Empire). They state that all relevant information required for these projects is available on the Juneau Second Crossing Web site.

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They exaggerate.

Absent are updated cost-benefit analyses, geophysical information, tidal and storm surge projections, comparisons of biological diversity and traffic pattern data. There are no comparative data on the 14 original options and little on the five remaining ones. There is no explanation as to how the city might obtain Federal Aviation Administration approval for any of the three options, which clearly violate the airport security zone and the runway-safety expansion area.

The workgroup and city consultants repeat misconceptions that by narrowing the options, they can cut time and costs in preparing an environmental impact statement. In fact, the National Environmental Policy Act requires an examination of all reasonable options that may become apparent during the scoping process. The current popularity poll the city has undertaken is a waste of time and money. It is irrelevant to NEPA requirements, which must be satisfied before project implementation.

On Feb. 12, the Assembly adopted the west Douglas development plan and its requisite second crossing. Grandiose plans for west Douglas are nothing new and should evoke some skepticism. Since the 1970s there have been proposals for everything from a plywood plant to a cruise ship terminal. During the '80s, only two subdivisions were developed along the North Douglas Highway, while dozens were developed in the Mendenhall Valley.

Developers tell us that both west Douglas and the second crossing require each other to be viable. The rest of us see two questionable projects chasing each other.

State demographers recently reported Juneau has lost population since 2000. The Juneau Economic Development Council reported the same trend in 2005. At roughly 30,000 residents, the city is close to its size in 1990. What growth is west Douglas supposed to accommodate? The area would require a huge investment and may already be draining resources from improvements elsewhere in Juneau.

Stuart Cohen's Feb. 16 letter is entirely accurate. Juneau's future is not dependent on either west Douglas development or a second crossing, but rather on residents finding affordable housing near their jobs, schools, shopping and community services.

Andy Grossman


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