During the scoping session of 1994, the Department of Transportation announced that the cost of the ELCR would be $516 million, or over $7 million per mile of road, for the 65 miles. I questioned the figure then as being too low, since they would be building one of the 10 most dangerous roads in North America, with blasting, many bridges built, avalanche shelters, shuttle ferries, ferry terminals and maintenance work. In addition, the road has to be closed a month or more each spring because of avalanche danger.
Around 1994 DOT had rebuilt 15 miles of road in the Haines area abutting the Chilkat River, at a cost to the public of $2 million per mile. This was the only road I was able to compare with the ELCR. The 15 miles of road was repairing washouts from the Chilkat River, resurfacing the road, and building on the old grade.
Then in 1997-98 the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Juneau Access Road settled on the ELCR for $232 million. Now DOT has come down to $280 million for the ELCR. They still have not come close to the $516 million DOT had predicted the ELCR would cost in 1994, 10 years before the scoping session took place.
In 1998 ICETEA, a federal program that funds money to the states, favored funding mass-transit, repairing old roads, public safety and road maintenance. This was a natural for the Alaska Marine Highway System. The elevation the ferries traveled only rose once a month 20 feet (tides). There was no maintenance of roads, no avalanches, and some of the oldest roadway in the world. The AMHS has a public safety record that surpasses any land highway system that has been in existence for over 40 years. The AMHS has had zero accidental deaths in over 40 years of existence.
We don't need a second-class, dangerous, pioneer road; we need a first-class ferry system.
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