If the cost of ferry tickets is one of the strongest incentives for the road to Skagway, why not strive to reduce the cost of travel to nearly zero. It's doable if we create a ferry permanent fund for the users of the ferry.
Imagine the $300 million for a roadway placed in an investment fund that tracked the Alaska Permanent Fund. Like the permanent fund, a portion of the earnings would be used for inflation-proofing. Yearly earnings beyond the inflation factor would be rebated once a year to the users of the upper Lynn Canal ferry system. A 10 percent investment return with 4 percent inflation-proofing yields $18 million. That number would increase yearly. Each year the ferry distribution fund would reimburse the price of ferry tickets to users up to the available funds. Eighteen million dollars buys most of the tickets between Juneau and points north: free travel. A reimbursement would start saving money within a year versus the eight-plus years for a road.
A direct rebate to ferry users is no different than spending the money to build a road. Both are subsidies to the user. One subsidy is to users of asphalt and the other a subsidy to users of the ferry. Try the ferry fund distribution for 10 years and then if the public wanted a road, the money would be there to build the road.
When we consider the economic impacts on Skagway and Haines, the traffic congestion to the streets of Juneau, the environmental cost to Berners Bay and the scenic desecration to the shoreline of Lynn Canal, thinking beyond asphalt makes sense. It is time to generate some alternative solutions to the perceived Juneau access problem.
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