When I first heard of the idea to build a road out of Juneau, I thought it was a great idea. My thinking was focused on easier access to and from Juneau. I didn't take into consideration all the factors that must be considered if a road was to be built. Now, the idea of building a road out of Juneau isn't quite as glamorous as I thought.
I think Juneau would benefit much more if we were to vote for improving ferry services, as proposed under Proposition 6. With daily high-speed ferry service, Juneau could have a year-round, safe, lower-cost access within three years. Or in 12 years, we could have a highly hazardous road that would likely be impassable during the winter.
Furthermore residents and visitors love to ride the ferry to Haines or Skagway. Ferries bring family and friends together and create unforgettable experiences. The only logical choice is the more efficient and less time-consuming option.
The Juneau Access Environmental Impact Statement put a $230 million price tag on building the road. If this cost estimate is as accurate as the estimate for the Whittier Tunnel, a more reasonable estimate for building a new road would be in the $400 million to $500 million range. Why waste more years and millions more dollars to build an unsafe road that will be closed one-third of the year?
The Department of Transportation has a list of high priority projects that total over $1.5 billion and include a long list o improvements to already existing highways in Alaska. Building a new Juneau road isn't on DOT's priority list, nor should it be on anyone else's list that is concerned about effective and practical planning.
Another huge issue is the preserving Berner's Bay. In 1984, an effort was made to save Berner's Bay from logging and road construction. In 1990, the Juneau Assembly promoted that goal and supported the federal roadless designation for Berner's Bay. Are all the people who fought for federal protection going to just sit around and watch a road being built on designated roadless land?
If people want to pack up and drive out of Juneau, I suggest they pack up their belongings and move to a place that allows road trips. Please vote for improved ferry service on Oct. 3.