On Oct. 5, 2004 an advisory question concerning Juneau access is going to be on the ballot. The question will be stated:
"Which of the following do you support for improved acess from Skagway to Juneau: improved ferry service or road?"
This question fails to define "improved ferry service" and fails to advise that the state of Alaska has no plans to pay for improved ferry service in the Lynn Canal. Currently, the state of Alaska subsidizes every vehicle mile traveled by ferry at $2 per mile. Every vehicle mile traveled by the existing road system is subsidized at 1 cent per mile. Juneau and Skagway are point-to-point on the same continent, not an island, not even a peninsula. That is the foundation of the state's decision to go with a road, let the chips fall where they may.
Yes, the advisory question is incomplete. But how is it meaningless? Whether you are against or for a road between Juneau and Skagway, an ordinance under consideration by the Skagway City Council would designate the area that is needed for a right-of-way as park or recreaction land. Boom! The stakes have been raised.
Well, it's not game over; but I'd wager that the council has the gentlemen at the Alaska Department of Transportation looking at their hole cards, seeing if they want to call the raise. To get the protection it seeks, the council must establish, primarily, the significance of the area, but also, the reasonableness of their declaration. On the other side of the table, DOT must prove there is no feasible and prudent alternative use of the land; and, the action includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the property resulting from use. Obviously, there is going to be just a tad of bad faith, disagreement, expense, fudging, and squirming on both sides. The river card will be dealt by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.
The advisory question on the Oct. 5 ballot is nothing more than a diversion from the real game. Nothing will happen as a result of that question. Why bother to divide Skagway again?