In split decision, Juneau Assembly backs road north
I commend Mayor Smith and Juneau Assembly members Pillifant, Wheeler and Powell for their votes on Sept. 9 against the motivation calling for a road into Juneau. The Assembly could have avoided public disagreement over the issue had the motion been limited to completing the access study. Instead, the motion was introduced and passed at the end of the Assembly meeting, with no opportunity for prior debate or public comment.
This action is likely to result in unintended consequences for Juneau. Other Southeast Alaska towns, especially Haines and Skagway, will be alienated by this gesture, which ignores their opposition to a road to Juneau. Construction of high-priority roads serving other areas in Southeast may be delayed by competition for funds. Legislative support of the Alaska Marine Highway System may be weakened by reopening the road issue at this time.
As long-time residents of Juneau, our family has many times used and enjoyed the Alaska Marine Highway since the inaugural voyage of the first ship, the Malaspina, in January 1963. It is a dependable and safe way to travel. A majority of Juneau voters favor ferry improvements over a road for Juneau access. With a growing population there may well be a future road, very costly to build and to maintain, but I, along with many other Juneau residents, believe this is not the time.
The Assembly's arbitrary action was divisive, contrary to the expressed wishes of a majority of Juneau voters, and not likely to have a beneficial effect on the capital move issue. Advocates of a capital move could have fresh ammunition: There would be little justification for a huge road project to Juneau if it were no longer the capital.
Mayor Smith's comment is appropriate: "This is making me very, very, very sad."