T his is in response to Erik Lie-Nielsen's letter on Oct. 15 about a road to Skagway. I have to say Erik isn't informed about all the impacts a road would have on Juneau. Yes there are people who choose to fly for convenience's sake, but there are others that would choose to drive for the sake of saving money and there are many other benefits a road would provide.
The road will benefit local Juneau residents more than anyone else. The benefits will be lower prices on goods and more economic opportunities. The reason for this is this will open up freight by trucking from Anchorage or Fairbanks, or even the Lower 48 to Juneau. We won't be reliant on the barge system, or what funnels through either Bellingham or Seattle. This also will allow for people who want to move here not to have to take a ferry or have to ship their goods on a barge. They can rent a U-Haul and drive here from most anywhere a road is connected. When I moved up here I would have loved to have saved the cost of the ferry system for my family and the expense of a U-Haul being taken on it, as well as a car - which was roughly $1,000 just for the ferry travel from Prince Rupert where we drove to. If I could have drove directly here it would have saved a lot of money.
A road to Juneau will lower housing costs as well because lumber and other large trucked supplies would then be shipped here without having to be a slave to the barge schedule. Contractors from other locations such as Anchorage and Fairbanks would be able to compete with the contractors here in Juneau who overcharge because there is no competition and they know it. The contractors from outside of Juneau would be able to drive their trucks and equipment here without having the high costs associated with a barge or ferry and could do it on their schedule, not a ferry or barge schedule which could be delayed, as we have seen this year already.
The same could be said for new businesses that want to enter Juneau; the cost for moving to Juneau and doing business in Juneau would be more affordable and they could compete with existing businesses here in Juneau, which would most likely lower costs once again. We all have seen how the cost of goods has gone up since Kmart left - do we want to continue that trend? Let's make an environment that promotes business growth and affordable prices, which in turn will secure Juneau's economy.
Tourism would benefit a little bit from a road with sightseeing tours and buses that would be able to transport people to and from cities on the roadway system. However, I don't know about you, but I sure would enjoy being able to go somewhere on the weekend besides the end of the road for a drive. It would be nice to be able to checkout Skagway or Haines without having to schedule an all-day trip on the ferry or airplane and paying the high prices to do so. If one could drive a car that gets 25 miles a gallon the cost for a round trip to Skagway would be around 10 gallons - or roughly $18 - and that would include as many people as you could fit into your vehicle. Now compare that to the ferry or a plane trip to Skagway: a ferry is $242 round-trip for two adults and a vehicle - and this is the cheaper winter fares. A plane ticket to Skagway would be $364 for two adults round-trip, plus additional costs for a rental car.
Building a road here would also most likely eliminate the constant chant from up north to move the capital because Juneau would no longer be so isolated and traveling here would then have less expensive options available, and Juneau could be competitive in the costs associated with building improved state facilities. To say the road would benefit only the tourists is ludicrous.
Matt Keopple is a Juneau resident who works at the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.