I read with interest that Murray Walsh, member of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee, has dismissed the report released by Taxpayers for Common Sense, which states that the Juneau Access Road is "one of the most wasteful highway projects in the nation." Mr. Walsh was quoted as saying that the SEIS study would conclude that "a road would save money for the state in the long haul since operating ferries is very expensive."
I find this a little confusing because during a presentation to Southeast Conference (March 24) Mr. Walsh stated that the mainline ferries, running between Bellingham and Skagway, would be kept in the Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan because they make money. Mr. Walsh then proceeded to mention that the new fast ferry would also be profitable in the Lynn Canal to the tune of $400,000 per year. Maintenance and operations costs will be $1.5 million per year for the Juneau Road. Mr. Walsh is now telling us that it is cheaper to spend $1.5 million per year for a road than it is to run profitable ferry services that pay for themselves.
The road's maintenance and operation figures do not even include the cost of operating and maintaining the shuttle ferry between Skagway and Haines. Could someone please explain to me where the state saves money? If we eliminate services that are profitable and replace them with projects that cost the taxpayer money, then I fail to see any cost savings in "the long haul."