I would like to clarify some of the misinformation that was quoted by Robin Robinson (letters to the editor, Sept. 27). Mr. Robinson is right that the ballot question fails to define "improved ferry service" the question also fails to define "road". At this point the Department of Transportation has said the road will be a two-lane, 35-mph highway which would take between two to two and a half hours to travel from Skagway to Juneau, not much better than the Fairweather on a good day. Mr. Robinson also fails to mention that the ballot question is advisory and was requested by pro-road advocates to demonstrate to the City Council that there is in fact a majority of road advocates in Skagway, contrary to the results of previous surveys.
As far as the cost of the subsidy is involved the road is a losing proposition. In March 2004, at the Southeast Conference Mid-Winter Session, Murray Walsh and Andy Hughes (DOT) both stated that the mainline ferries from Bellingham to Skagway were to be retained in the SATP because they made money over and above their operating costs. They also stated that the Fairweather was slated to make $400,000 over and above its operating costs. Murray Walsh in a later statement was quoted as saying that the road would save the state money in the long haul. Please explain to me where the state saves money when the road will require a $1.5 million subsidy to maintain it every year. And what of the added expenditure to operate and maintain a shuttle ferry between Katzehin and Haines. So, the state of Alaska does not subsidize ferry travel in the Lynn Canal, and in fact makes a profit which is spread throughout the marine highway system, decreasing the subsidy required from the state. Pulling the ferries from Lynn Canal will result in a significant increase in the state's subsidy to the Alaska Marine Highway System.
The road question is not divisive, and never really has been. Having a difference of opinion and honestly debating the issues is a sign of a healthy community. Skagway is that, apart from a small group of people who feel that an opposing opinion is heresy and must be stamped out at all costs.