New road plan a dead end

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rich Poor's Aug. 15 My Turn guest column calling the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities' announcement that the road out of Juneau would end at the Katzehin River instead of Skagway with shuttle ferries to Haines and Skagway a "win-win" solution for almost everybody is quite puzzling. Supporters of the road cite the importance of having direct road access to the rest of the state. Apparently that isn't feasible now: Folks desiring to drive in or out of Juneau will still be tied to a ferry schedule and fares. A road to Katzehin will impact Berners Bay and other sensitive areas along the road corridor and pass through areas of high avalanche hazard. If the road is constructed, a short drive to the Auke Bay ferry terminal and a longer ferry ride will be replaced by a longer, more hazardous drive to the Katzehin ferry terminal and a shorter ferry ride to Haines and Skagway. Will the impacts and risks be worth being able to drive a little farther "out the road" years from now? Will we have to live with limited ferry service in the interim? Why not get to work on improving ferry service in Lynn Canal now?

The Murkowski administration has created havoc within the ferry system by moving the headquarters to Ketchikan, failing to negotiate well in advance the necessary labor agreements for the Fairweather and Chenega and now proposing to pull those ferries into southern Southeast for a winter "trial demonstration." These tactics seem intent on disrupting Lynn Canal traffic flow and building support for a road. The administration's adamant support for a road in advance of the final environmental impact statement does not build credibility with the public process, nor do the state and federal appropriations for construction of the road.

While the new alternative may cost less, we are concerned about the enormous expense of this road, paid for by U.S. taxpayers, when this country is dealing with a mounting deficit. We also question the final estimated cost because a project of this magnitude will certainly cost far more than the original estimate. Appropriating money for this project may draw money away from other state projects and further result in the loss of support for the capital remaining in Juneau.

Ron and Nan Schonenbach


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