Road to Skagway is a bad idea

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, March 04, 2005

To build a road from Juneau to Skagway is the worst idea I've heard since the proposal to build a dam across the Yukon River or the proposal to move the capital. Luckily and wisely, these projects were not implemented, and I hope the road won't be either.

I love this town. Juneau is arguably the most beautiful and unique capital in the United States. It is beautiful largely because of its backdrop of precipitous mountains and glaciers and its forefront on the sea. It is unique because it is surrounded by an expanse of wilderness and because there is no road. This wilderness is the reason I moved to Juneau 43 years ago. This wilderness is the reason I, and many others, remain here.

If this road is built, the character of Juneau will change, our quality of life will diminish and the countless miseries of urban life experienced elsewhere will flood in upon us.

If this road is built, the cost will be immense. The DOT says $280 million. Jim Bently, who formerly worked for DOT, says at least $300 million. I submit that both estimates are too low. Have you ever seen a large government construction project that was completed for the estimated cost? Even the DOT says that over a 30-year period the cost of building and maintaining a road would be $7 million more than the present level of ferry service.

If this road is built, 8,000 new RVs will visit Juneau. You all know what it is like downtown in summer. Where will 8,000 new RVs park? Even the Kmart parking lot is not large enough.

If this road is built, the environment will suffer. There will be 30 percent fewer brown bear. Salmon, herring and eulachon populations will decrease, and the magnificent, steep mountains south of Skagway will have an ugly scar at their base. To many people, this stretch of real estate is the most scenic of any along the entire Inside Passage.

If this road is built, Berners Bay will be finished as a wilderness recreation area.

In closing, I urge the DOT not to build this unnecessary road. Judging from the testimony at the recent public hearing, about 64 percent of Juneauites now oppose the road. Yes, Juneau needs better access. Let's accomplish this by increasing ferry service. If we choose this option, future generations will thank us.

Richard Gard


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