It is clear that the proposed Juneau road extension is near and dear to the governor's heart, just as it is to columnist Ben Brown's. But that is not sufficient reason to build a dead-end road that has consistently drawn more opponents than supporters.
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In Mr. Brown's opinion ("Legislature's support points to inevitable road," May 4), the road is a cost-effective replacement to the ferry system in Lynn Canal. The Federal Highway Administration's projections, however, do not support Mr. Brown's opinion. The agency readily admits that the road-shuttle ferry proposal "would have a net state cost over 35 years of $122 million, approximately double that of the No Action Alternative."
In other words, if we kept running the fast ferry Fairweather and other vessels in Lynn Canal rather than extending a dead-end road, the state Legislature would save $61 million. You can read those numbers yourself on page four of the Record of Decision for the project.
Spending millions of dollars to build a road through avalanche terrain and environmentally sensitive landscapes is not economically sensible, as Mr. Brown suggests. Nor does it shorten the link to the road system. Instead, it leaves users stranded at a dead end at the Katzehin River, waiting at a no-services terminal for the next shuttle ferry to Haines and Skagway.
The road is neither inevitable nor cost-effective. Instead of throwing our resources into a dead-end road, we should focus on funding our existing, effective link to the road system - the Alaska Marine Highway.
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