My turn: Fighting the dinosaur mentality at the state

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2006

A few simple facts about the road extension on the east side of Lynn Canal: First, where did the canal come from? A canal is a hand-dug ditch by men; the Lynn Canal Fjord is one of the deepest, longest and most in-tact fjords of all North America, where nearly 1 million tourists sail up and down, casually enjoying the truly amazing mountainous landscape and the abundant marine wildlife that lives in its clean waters.

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This June, I made two enjoyable round-trip sails on the ferry to Haines. Speaking with the many independent travelers on the subject of ferry-versus-road, most were shocked and truly disturbed. Why would anyone want to destroy and disrupt such a scenic landscape? Ninety-five percent of the people I spoke with were glad to escape their iron wheelchairs for a relaxing boat ride up and down the fjord.

It makes one wonder why the governor and the Department of Transportation are so headstrong to take this away from all of us, with their enormous dinosaur mentality of power, strength and pea-brain vision. The idea of literally drilling and blowing up the base of the Kakuhan Mountain Range is truly ludicrous. Do the governor and the department really think this is in the public's and environment's best interest to make us drive a sketchy, 50-mile, hacked-in, dead-end road to the middle of nowhere and wait for a ferry? Where do these guys come up with this stuff?

If the hardworking boys at the Department of Transportation, in their dump trucks and excavators, are in need of work, here are a few thoughts: Have they ever been out to Thane Road? How about the second crossing? The Fred Meyer dash across Egan Drive deserves serious immediate attention, and the Brotherhood Bridge should be replaced with a wider, more modern structure.

It's become quite clear that the big-wigs at DOT have their own solution for the upper Lynn Fjord and have it in for the ferries. It is obvious that they prefer and specialize in crushing rock and spreading asphalt. It must be very frustrating for the state, that they do not do marine ship construction and ship maintenance. If the great powers-that-be haven't noticed that the cruise ship industry moves nearly 1 million tourists from Juneau to Skagway like clockwork in a mere four months. Maybe Robin Taylor and the governor should look to the real experts in marine transportation. All we ever hear from these people is what a deficit, burden and inconvenience this one ferry run is. Do they expect us to believe that the fast ferry Fairweather is going to break the financial back of Alaska? Since when does everything need to be profitable?

If the state and legislators truly supported the upper Lynn Canal route, committed to a daily, reliable schedule and substantially dropped the vehicle fee, then this would increase ridership and unite Juneau with Haines and Skagway, in stead of dividing all of us.

Let's not forget that people come from all over the country and world to admire and experience the natural beauty of Southeast. Buying knickknacks and T-shirts from downtown isn't their real reason for passing through Juneau; it is the clean, in-tact wilderness that draws them here.

• Michael Miller is a Juneau resident.

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