Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch added a $10 million Glacier Highway extension to a list of road projects that the Alaska House Finance Committee approved Tuesday.
The Juneau Republican said Southeast Alaska was left off a list of major road projects across the state and amended House Bill 275 to include the Echo Cove extension.
"I'm from an area that's hurting economically," said Weyhrauch. "We need to get the private sector developed. We need roads. We need to get to the mines."
The addition to Juneau's road system would be a start toward accessing Berners Bay and the proposed Kensington Mine, though $10 million is not expected to be enough to reach the mine.
The bill proposes that the state use Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles, or GARVEE, bonds to pay for the $193 million plan. These bonds would be paid with federal highway receipts that are given to Alaska every year.
The total amount the federal government gives Alaska fluctuates from $325 million to $375 million per year. The bonds will be paid at $16 million annually from this sum for 16 years, raising the cost of the road projects with interest to more than $260 million.
Lawmakers are eager to build and improve highways in anticipation of supporting a natural gas pipeline running through the Alaska Interior. The list includes the Dalton and Richardson highways, several Fairbanks road extensions, and improvements to Anchorage's Glenn Highway to handle traffic and congestion.
An aide from Weyhrauch's office said the money proposed for the Glacier Highway may go toward reaching the Kensington Mine near Berners Bay, but would fall short of the $40 million necessary.
U.S. Rep. Don Young was able to pencil in $15 million for the Juneau Access road earlier this year in a congressional transportation bill that is up for approval soon.
The Alaska House Finance Committee moved the state bill to the House Floor for a vote. Some members had reservations about using the GARVEE bonds.
Rep. Jim Holm, R-Fairbanks, said no money is mentioned for maintenance on the new roads.
"We're painfully aware of the maintenance costs," said John MacKinnon, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities deputy commissioner. "We do not go through that and look at what the costs of the maintenance side of things when we do a project."
Andrew Petty can be reached at email@example.com.
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