After reading Roman Motyka's My Turn I was stunned by his assertion that the Department of Transportation's new cost estimate for construction of the Lynn Canal Highway is now suggested at $1 billion. I called DOT to see if Motyka was correct and was informed that they had no clue where he was coming from.
According to DOT, the latest 2007 estimate for construction is $350 million with an average inflation cost of about four percent per year. In other words, if Southeast Alaska Conservation Council pursues its law suits and is able to delay the Lynn Canal Highway for 20 years, then it may cost closer to what Motyka is suggesting.
But then, whose fault would that be? DOT's or SEACC's.
I also took great offense at Motyka's suggestion that Alaska Marine Highway System officials have intentionally allowed the ferry system to deteriorate. In reality, the ferry system cannot generate enough revenue to cover maintenance and operations costs.
It is demographics that created this problem. The population base is extremely small and getting smaller as the economy of Southeast Alaska shrinks. The ferry system must also provide service to many small Alaska communities from Metlakatla to Unalaska (approximately 2,000 water miles apart). To try and make ends meet, marine highway officials have had to increase fares to passengers and reduce maintenance and operation costs. This is a recipe for failure any way you look at it.
Personally, I think marine highway officials have done a good job considering what they've had to work with.
The Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan completed in 2004 recommends that lengthening roads and shortening ferry routes is the only solution to reducing cost to the traveling public and to the ferry system. The Lynn Canal Highway is part of that solution.