Bridge supporters may seek funds for study

Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2004

Juneau may not get $8.1 million in federal funding this year for a second bridge over Gastineau Channel because other state transportation projects are of higher priority, a city lobbyist said Wednesday.

Washington, D.C., lobbyist John Roots told the West Douglas Development Working Group that the channel crossing project is legitimate, but other projects are ahead in the line for money.

"I think the project is a valid one," Roots said by phone from Washington, D.C. "I think it will ultimately occur. I can't give you a sense of timing on it."

The West Douglas working group sent a letter on July 16 to U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) asking him to authorize $8.1 million in the fiscal 2005 federal transportation bill. The funding would cover pre-construction costs associated with the second crossing.

But Roots said the Gravina Bridge and Knik Arm Bridge projects are bigger and take higher priority. The Knik Arm project calls for building a toll bridge between Anchorage and Port MacKenzie in the Matanuaka-Susitna Borough. The Gravina Bridge would link Ketchikan with Gravina Island.

The second channel bridge has received $2.1 million in federal funding with a state match, and needs $2.5 million to $3 million more to complete the environmental impact statement. The project is estimated to cost $60 million.

Group chairwoman Linda Thomas encouraged members to seek other funding sources.

"Even though the funding on the EIS is dim, I think we should still keep digging," Thomas said. "We're not going to go anywhere unless we get that (EIS) done."

The group decided it will try to tap federal Emergency Management Agency money because it is unsafe to have one bridge that crosses the channel. Access to Bartlett Regional Hospital and the Mendenhall Valley would be cut off if an avalanche occurred on Egan Drive near downtown, group member Peter Metcalfe said.

The working group wanted to tap into a 1 percent city sales tax that might be available in 2006, but the tax may not be on the ballot this October, said Juneau Assembly member Merrill Sanford. A temporary 1 percent sales tax ends on Dec. 31, 2005.

The Assembly may offer only ballot measures that ask voters to approve bonds for a second high school and to redirect $18 million in bonds sold for the originally planned high school. Voters turned down that school in a special election in May.

If the Assembly offers too many spending measures on the ballot, it fears that voters will turn them down, Sanford said.

The Assembly will decide Aug. 23 what measures will be included on the October ballot.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho appointed the working group members in June to improve commercial, recreational and residential development in West Douglas.

The group members, appointed to two-year terms, are: Thomas, from Alaskan Brewery, Jim Scholz of Northland Services, Lance Miller of the Juneau Economic Development Council, Kirby Day of Princess Cruises, attorney Tom Koester, David Goade of Goldbelt, and Metcalfe of Totem Creek.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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