The governor's decision to increase access in the Lynn Canal corridor through better ferry service has been the source of much debate and strong feelings in Juneau. Some have applauded the decision while others claim foul.
The governor faced a tough call. Our community was divided about whether improved ferry access was the way to go or whether a road should be built. Haines and Skagway were clearly opposed to road construction.
Some folks around Juneau were disappointed the road option was passed over by the governor and DOT in favor of improved ferry service. Ask the average person whether they'd rather pay a $25 toll as proposed by DOT for the road or pay a couple hundred bucks for a ferry ticket. and it's no surprise some folks feel the road is a better deal. This kind of sentiment is at the root of the complaints expressed by some of the road advocates and caused them to whine about the governor's decision to build new ferries.
The choice isn't based on customer preference, but on practical, legal and financial considerations. The governor and commissioner of DOT correctly decided a host of practical, legal and financial considerations made improved ferry service the only practical choice for increasing transportation access in Lynn Canal.
It's possible to build new ferries that will dramatically increase the availability of service and the speed of travel in Southeast Alaska for a quarter of the price of a road.
The proposed road was and remains prone to numerous and lengthy legal challenges. Even if $300 million dollars was immediately available to build the road (it's not), a road would not be ready for 10 to 15 years.
The basic problem comes down to this: why should the taxpayers of the United States build an incredibly expensive road for a few people living in remote Alaska when a cheaper alternative exists?
Under the circumstances, the governor's decision was not only best for Juneau and Southeast, it was the only decision that makes sense. The governor did not preclude road construction in the future, instead he decided Juneau and Southeast need increased transportation improvements right now and that ferries were the only practical way to provide improved access.