Gravina road project is not being developed for benefit of a few

Posted: Thursday, August 09, 2007

I appreciate Don Hoff's passionate opposition to the Gravina road project ("As Ketchikan turns, so do our lives," June 28), and respect his right to voice his opinion. But I feel it necessary to respond to several points he made.

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The Gravina road is not being developed solely for the benefit of a handful of landowners. On the contrary, it will be a public road that provides access to more than 1,000 acres of sorely needed developable land on the island. It is a component of the Gravina Access Project and part of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough master plan that was developed by community leaders after much public input and open deliberation.

In addition, the project offers no direct benefit to any timber activities and would not provide access to the remote land on the island that is owned by the previous governor.

As for the cost of the project, it is indeed expensive. Unfortunately, it is not out of line with the high cost of road construction in Alaska and in fact is cheaper per mile than the current Tongass Highway projects.

Because the Gravina road is a design-build project, the $25.7 million cost includes design and environmental costs that would not normally be shown in more traditional design/bid/build road projects.

If you remove the engineering, design and environmental permitting costs ($3.5 million), as well as the two bridges ($5.5 million), from the Gravina road, the project's cost compares favorably with that of other Ketchikan projects now under way. You will find that it costs $4.9 million per mile to construct the 3.4-mile road. By contrast, South Tongass Highway, which is under construction, costs $5.1 million per mile. The North Tongass Highway project costs $6.1 million per mile. Both are paved reconstruction projects less than two miles in length, but the type of work is similar enough to compare to the Gravina project.

Although the Gravina road is cheaper than the two projects mentioned above, no doubt all are expensive. It is a fact of Alaska life that road construction up here is an expensive proposition. I share Hoff's wish that this wasn't the case.

Mal Menzies

Southeast regional director, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities


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