My turn: Who will pay for access?

Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I am in favor of improved access and transportation. I am, however, not convinced the proposed road to Katzehin River Delta and a ferry shuttle is the answer.

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The concerns I have include:

The impact to Juneau's services: police, garbage, animal control and social services.

There will be an increased demand for services. Who will pay for this?

There are already places being used on the highway near Echo Cove for dumping personal garbage - and apparently there are no resources or interest by the state to clean it up. The Kowee Creek parking lot was littered with discarded furniture and household garbage when I drove out there last spring.

I know from personal experience that animals are abandoned at the existing "end of the road," and our already stretched animal control services are required to provide services when needed in that area.

The impact to the Juneau infrastructure: roads, harbors and parking.

City and state budgets are stretched to maintain existing infrastructure (roads, schools, etc.).

Many of our roads are in need of upgrade and repair. The resources to address currently existing maintenance and upgrade needs appear to be minimal.

I am not convinced of the economic benefits promoted.

In a brief discussion I had with someone about road access, a local and highly successful business person said, "I came to Juneau because of its unique charm. ... If the road is constructed, I will relocate. I am currently looking at property in Sitka."

Juneau has a beauty and charm that people crave to experience, something money cannot buy. But once Berners Bay is accessible by vehicle, the impact will be irreversible. No amount of money can reclaim the pristine beauty of this resource.

The access this road will provide has been exaggerated.

I lived in Skagway for five years and during that time there were a number of closures of the highway to Whitehorse during the winter due to ice and snow and white-out conditions. During that time in Skagway (1980s) the highway was closed for an entire winter due to budget cuts. I know of one person who was stranded in Whitehorse this past November for several days.

I recently visited with a former Homer resident. "The road was nice to have, however, budget cuts often resulted in poor maintenance and unsafe driving conditions in the winter. The summer congestion of RV traffic made the two-lane access undesirable and unsafe."

This same person lamented the personal trash littering the highway. "You can pick up a cheap junkyard on the Kenai peninsula highway."

Roads are highly subsidized so why not the marine highway system?

We need to be looking at using and developing more public transportation and not promoting more roads for more privately owned vehicles.

The weather conditions in southeast often preclude flying to a destination and winter driving can be prohibitive.

The ferry may not always be on time and the schedule less than perfect, however, you can get to where you need to go and safely.

If we continue to dismantle the Alaska Marine Highway System, which provides service to all of our Southeast Alaska communities, in favor of a road, what options will there be when there are the predictable road closures?

There will be conditions in Lynn Canal when the ferry will not be able to cross from Katzehin to Haines.

What happens if you get to Katzehin for the last crossing of the day and the ferry is full? A reservation system will have to be implemented. Not really improved access only further to drive to the access.

Currently, public bus service to the existing ferry terminal is seasonal at best.

Snow removal north of the ferry terminal is not always timely and is the state's responsibility. A number of times when I lived on Lena Cove I drove in drifts of snow in the morning until I got to where the city maintenance responsibilities began.

• Linda M. Blefgen is a resident of Auke Bay.

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