While Kevin Hood has every right to express his opposition to the Juneau Access project, I am afraid he is relying on a lot of false information to form his dissent. I would encourage him to take the time to read the Final Environmental Impact Statement for a better source.
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His statement that the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities believes the road will have no significant economic effect on Juneau, simply doesn't make sense. How could a $189 million highway construction project have no economic impact? How could a road making it easier and cheaper to reach a vacation destination and Alaska's capital have no economic impact?
The impact statement estimates the highway will result in $226 million in user benefits through reduced travel costs and $242 million in direct benefits to Juneau from increased visitor spending over 30 years. These are only a couple of examples.
In regard to the often-misrepresented avalanche danger, the state estimates it would close the road for about 34 days each year to ensure avalanche safety, similar to what is done on Thane Road. The closures would average about two days in length and two shuttle ferries would still be available to transport travelers.
While conversely, the No Action Alternative assumes 56 days per winter of no ferry service to Upper Lynn Canal. That is ferry service five days per week, weather permitting.
He also incorrectly stated this proposed road would cost the state 45 percent more to operate and maintain than the existing ferry service. What the impact statement does say is that it will cost 45 percent more than the No Action Alternative, that alternative assumes reduced ferry service due to fewer mainline ferries.
This highway will carry five times more vehicles than the No Action Alternative, so the cost per vehicle to the state will be one-third the cost of the No Action Alternative.
And lastly, the work now underway is not some ominous and covert "roading" project. It is, in fact, the same brushing activity that was previously reported in the Juneau Empire and involves cutting only downed timber and vegetation of six inches in diameter or less, not six feet.
Here at the Department of Transportation, we have fielded numerous calls from reporters recently and are encouraged by the media's interest in this important statewide project. So I would respectfully suggest to Mr. Hood that the media's reluctance to cover "old news" doesn't constitute a blackout.
Chief Communications Officer
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities