Charley Larson asked in Sunday's paper (Empire letters to the editor, Oct. 10): "How do you respond to people that would like to have access out of Juneau but simply cannot afford to fly or take the ferry?" I'll respond.
Let's assume we're talking about people living here who want to go farther than Skagway. Let's assume they'd want to go to Anchorage (likely the most popular destination) maybe for Halloween weekend. Would it be cheaper to drive?
According to the Milepost, it is 832 miles from Skagway to Anchorage. If there were a road, add to that approximately 90 miles from Juneau to Skagway and you get a round-trip drive of 1,844 miles. Assuming an average of 17 miles per gallon for your car, (according to Federal Highway Administration statistics) possibly less if you own an older car, SUV or a truck, you'd need 108 gallons of gas to get there and back. At $2.23 per gallon, (the price for unleaded in town today) you'd spend $240 on gas.
Now, if you were driving at 60 mph, (optimistic in summer, impossible in winter) you'd need to drive a total of 30.7 hours; about 15 hours to get there and 15 hours to get back. Unless you have a lot of stamina, you'd want to overnight once in each direction, which would probably cost $80 each way.
Even if you drove straight through, or packed all your own food for the trip, you'd need to eat, say, $20 per person for food each way if you were really frugal. And, if you wanted to be in Anchorage for Saturday and Sunday, you'd probably need to leave Juneau on Thursday afternoon, and you'd get back Tuesday afternoon: three days of vacation time for those of us working Monday-Friday.
Cost for two people to take this weekend trip? $480.00, not counting what leave time is worth, or wear on the vehicle.
Monday I looked up the fare on Alaska Airlines to Anchorage for Halloween weekend, up Friday night and back Sunday night. Planning ahead only two weeks it was $159 round trip. No leave time required, a 1 1/2-hour flight. Even if two people split the gas, drove 15 hours straight each way, ate no food, and didn't count the value of their vacation time, it's only $35 more per person to fly. In reality, it's much cheaper to fly.
So my answer to Ms. Larson is this: Do the math. A road out of Juneau does not equal cheap vacations to Anchorage or Seattle, which is where people who use this argument are thinking about going.
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