Skagway road would open up Juneau

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, June 13, 2005

Juneau is the largest gated community in North America. That's the sentiment the anti-road people want to believe. I've read dozens of stories, both pro- and anti-road, but not an anti-road argument that makes sense.

Preservation of Berners Bay is one argument, but how does one get to Berners Bay? A boat or plane can be hired to get there. I can't afford a boat or plane, so I've never been to Berners Bay. If there was a road, I could afford to drive, but for now Berners Bay is a playground for the wealthy. One of my fondest childhood memories was a trip to Yellowstone National Park. If one could get there only by airplane, how many of us would have seen it?

Another argument is that if there was a road, Juneau would fill up with RVs. RVs cost more than your average Lemon Creek trailer. RV owners have money. An enterprising Juneauite would build a park to extract money from them. The Juneau Assembly has already sold out downtown to seek the tourist dollars. An RV park would give Alaskans from other communities a chance to spend their dollars somewhere other than businesses owned by non-Alaskans on Franklin Street.

I've heard that a road would be costly. Beginning in 2003, the U.S. funded a $350 million, 1,000-mile road on Antarctica that is to be used three to four times per year. A road to Skagway might cost as much, but it would be used more than that.

And then there's the environmental impact. When 10,000-plus U.S. troops spent eight months building the 1,500-mile long Alcan Highway in 1942, a years-long environmental impact study wasn't even considered. We're not hearing about mass extinctions along the Alcan.

Lastly, the ferry system's budget is being cut and the fast ferries have proven to be unreliable by stranding passengers and forcing them to take alternative air travel due to maintenance problems and labor disputes. Fog, terrorism, and dock-worker lockouts down south have threatened other non-road accessibility to Juneau.

We should be confident that Alaska can handle another 65 miles of road, but I don't have confidence that Juneau's aristocrats will give up their gated playground.

A state capital should be accessible, and affordable to reach, by everybody. If you want the capital to move north, oppose the road to Skagway.

Steve Robertson


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