Stop spending on dangerous roads

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2004

So the Knik bridge is Congressman Don Young's Number One priority? Someone might want to tell that to state road planners down here in Juneau. According to the draft Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan, DOT is banking on over $1 billion in Congressional earmarks for the hundreds of miles of brand-spanking new roads slated for the region.

Their wish list includes projects like the $260 million Bradfield Canal road, of which DOT stated in 1997 report, "(W)e have no compelling reasons to spend more public money on more detailed corridor studies. The project won't work. The road would raise state operating budgets."

Also high on the list is a $300 million road to Juneau, which, with its 50-plus avalanche chutes, would join Bradfield as one of the most treacherous highways in the nation. This road is not, despite claims to the contrary, an alternative to the AMHS Juneau to Haines/Skagway route. There would still be a need for a ferry to cross over to Haines at the new northern terminus of the road. Another consideration is that even with snow sheds, remote-controlled or helicopter-delivered avalanche explosives, there will be times when this road would be impassable.

While federal dollars may pay for the construction of these ill-advised roads, they won't be paying for their maintenance. That ends up being a state burden. Is this one that is likely to be able to be met, given the economic state of the state and the location, weather, and topography involved? I have not heard a lot of banter about excess state funds of late, have you?

By now, Congressman Young knows better than anyone just how reluctant Congress is to dole out transportation money. Here's an easy way to cut costs and make the best use of Alaska's federal dollars: Stop trying to throw money around Southeast on expensive, dangerous roads that won't do us any good.

Mark Robertson


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