It's not time to build the Gravina bridge

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, March 17, 2006

"Never!" is the answer to the editorial lifted from the Ketchikan Daily News into the Juneau Empire opinion page on March 7 - "Not now, not ever!"

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The future of Ketchikan's economy depends on not building a bridge across the Tongass Narrows from Revilla to Pennock and Gravina Islands that would interfere with cruise ship and other large vessel traffic on the Inside Passage. In Ketchikan we know all too well how easy it would be for ships to go around Gravina Island, bypassing Ketchikan's port altogether. We struggle now to keep the cruise ship industry growing because of inadequate dock space. Transportation dollars coming to Ketchikan need to go into dock improvements, not bridges to economic Nowhereland.

The support of the Ketchikan Daily News for building a bridge across the Tongass Narrows springs from bridge-envy developed in Little Lew Williams (the papers longtime past publisher) when Big Lew Williams took his son to witness the opening of the Gastineau Channel Bridge. What Lew Williams Jr. failed to realize then, and still does not seem to understand, is that Gastineau Channel is not navigable water and the Tongass Narrows is.

The tall two-bridge option was repeatedly eliminated over the decades because of the outrageous expense, and that option still does not eliminate the problem of safe passage through the bridges' abutments in rough weather, strong currents and heavy traffic.

In addition, the Bridge to Nowhere scenario is a maintenance monster. You have to see the pictures to believe how huge and high the proposed spans are. Where would the money come from to keep the bridge open in winter? For that matter, where is the money going to come from to connect the proposed monstrosity to the actual airport? Some of you may not realize that the proposed location of the Bridge to Nowhere is miles from the airport.

If you Juneauites have ever been laid over in Ketchikan because the planes couldn't land in Juneau, you may have had to take our little ferry over to the town side. Just remember, if the Ketchikan airport becomes accessible only by this proposed bridge, getting to town would become a trek of many miles across uninhabited muskeg, up an exposed span 300 feet in the air and then down the long and winding road to town.

Carol Cairnes


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