Road critics should provide more answers

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2006

Every person who writes a letter against the building of the road out of Juneau has one solution, "Improve the ferry system," proving there is a problem with the system. Not one person has offered a method or means of accomplishing this goal. Which of the following are you going to do to "improve the ferry system"?

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• Build more ferries to supplement the ones we have?

• Replace the three ferries that are more than 45 years old with new ones that are faster, carry more vehicles, or do both?

• Are you going to reschedule the ferries so they are more convenient for those of us in Juneau at the expense of the rest of Southeast Alaska?

• Are you going to ignore the fact that scheduling depends on tides for parts of Southeast Alaska, not including Lynn Canal?

• What are you going to do about the myth of reliability? The LeConte is down, the Columbia is down, and the Fairweather is on three engines (but it was running for more than two months in a row - so what can you expect?). None of this is new or has occurred only during the Murkowski administration.

• What about the myth of affordability? A flood of letters exploding the hyped cost of driving to the Lower 48 by people who actually make the trip helped bring some truth and accuracy to the question of ferry travel versus road travel. So how are you going to improve the system and make ferry travel more affordable at the same time? Who is going to pay the difference?

• What about the safety record of the ferries? One ferry in the trees, one on the rocks, several shipboard fires and the running over of a boat with loss of life are accidents that immediately come to mind. How are you going to eliminate all accidents, or is just the road required to be accident-free?

I think that every person who says, "Improve the ferry system," should not only answer these questions but put a timetable for implementation of their program, a possible cost figure and means of financing these improvements, including operational costs to make their version of an improved ferry system work. They should also prove where it would not only improve Lynn Canal access, but access to all of Southeast Alaska. It would only be fair because the road access project has done all that.

Tim Whiting


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