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KETCHIKAN - The state has selected a $244 million option with two high bridges as its preferred alternative for access to its island-bound airport.
That's a change from the state's previous preference for linking Ketchikan, on Revillagigedo Island, to the airport on Gravina Island.
Department of Transportation Southeast Region Director Gary Paxton confirmed Monday that the state's preferred alternative is to construct two high bridges, one from Revillagigedo to Pennock Island and a second from Pennock to Gravina Island.
The first bridge, between Revilla and Pennock, would be 3,715 feet long, 250 feet high and have a minimum clearance of 200 feet, said Project Manager Jim Evensen.
The second, linking Pennock and Gravina, would be 2,750 long, 160 feet high and have a minimum clearance of 120 feet.
The preferred alternative is in the state's Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is to be released Wednesday, said Pat Kemp, DOT pre-construction engineer for the Southeast Region.
The preferred alternative differs from the state's recommended alternative, announced by Gov. Tony Knowles in January 2002. That alternative was also a two-bridge option, but the bridge from Revilla to Pennock over the east channel of the Tongass Narrows would have had only a 120-foot clearance.
Marine pilots were highly critical of that, contending it would cause cruise ships to bypass their normal route and navigate the narrower west channel.
The Ketchikan City Council and Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly passed resolutions supporting the construction of two high bridges.
The concerns caused the state to select a different preferred alternative, Paxton said. Testimony from the Coast Guard and marine pilots also figured in the decision, Paxton said.
The two high bridges have been rejected in part because of cost. The price tag is about $34 million higher than the low bridge-high bridge option.
Local officials praised the state decision.
Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Mike Salazar said the higher bridge over the east channel will allow easier passage of larger cruise ships.
"It's a little bit more expensive, but it will ensure that we will have two-way traffic up and down these channels," Salazar said.