Consider light rail

Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2001

I'd like to thank the Empire's publisher, Don Smith, for adding more information to the discussion on the light rail for Juneau. Mr. Smith apparently knows more about light rail than I do as "a misinformed writer." When I attended a light rail meeting a year ago at Centennial Hall, a light rail authority from Portland said that the Aspen light rail project was still alive.

In regard to Juneau, I'd like to ask Mr. Smith where he came up with the "$300 million or more" price tag to build a light rail system here? I'm not trying to be a wise guy about this; it's just hard for me to understand why it's so expensive to build light rail in this age of high-tech construction equipment when they used to build light rail systems using mules and a lot of manpower in the early 20th century. Maybe Mr. Smith also knows whether or not the center of Egan Drive could be used for light rail and if we'd have to pay right-of-way costs to use it?

One more thing. Mr. Smith asks, "What kind of message are we sending to the rest of the state when we are willing to spend $300 million or more to build a train that would serve a fraction of the state's population instead of improving Juneau's accessibility to everyone?"

The message is this: Juneau, as Alaska's capital, wants to build its future based on reason, wisdom and a transportation system that protects the beauty and lifestyle of our state, rather than applying ideas that have deadened communities, trashed environments and sentenced people to years behind the wheel elsewhere. I, and many other Alaskans, feel that we have the opportunity to do things right here.

Moving the capital is about moving jobs and money to Anchorage, not just about better access to government. We'll never be able to beat the access argument, even if we have a road to Skagway. But they haven't moved Washington, D.C., to Omaha or Sacramento to Santa Barbara and no one is petitioning to do so. Why not?

Lisle Hebert


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