Road to be costly, dangerous

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I wrote Reuben Yost of the Alaska Department of Transportation months ago expressing concern that no information has been presented concerning earth (landslide) problems for the 68.5-mile proposed Juneau road route on the east side of Lynn Canal. I received no reply.

I hope the DOT will face up to the fact that landslide activity is a year-round concern, and this area is loaded with drastic potential. Just look at Southern California, where mudslides have cost millions of dollars and many lives, with no snow involved. I have lived in Juneau for 87 years and have witnessed many such destructive events, including the loss of 14 lives in the 1930s on South Franklin Street.

The Weather Bureau states that major landslides can occur when Juneau receives rainfall of 1 inch per hour; even lesser amounts can cause concern. Several years ago, a bad landslide occurred in the area above the Gastineau Humane Society when a steady rainfall changed the path of a creek. This type of slide has happened several times in Juneau's hills. I have discussed Lynn Canal with U. S. Forest Service officials specializing in landslides and mass wasting, and the entire area is of extreme concern.

Landslides like those around Juneau will be quite common on the slopes of Lynn Canal. It would appear that the road construction from the Katzekin River to Skagway would have to be mostly tunnel. This type of construction is also extremely expensive. With a war going on, I fail to see how the federal government will be able to provide large amounts of funds for construction, and there's no mention of maintenance funds. Where is all this money coming from, when, even now, a huge cutback is in progress for important projects? What would even be a wild guess on the amount for toll charges on these 68.5 miles of road? It has already been admitted that any avalanche activity can and will reach tidal waters, which doubles the likelihood of lost lives.

I, like the Empire, favor dependable overall ferry service to provide safety for lives and to prevent injuries. In the long run, this would be more cost-effective than the road. We all have to realize that the ferry system has done a great deal to bolster the economy and well-being for the people of Southeast Alaska. We should continue to support it.

Dean Williams


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