We need a road

Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2001

Expressing my viewpoint concerning the road to Skagway has been on my mind for some time now. In fact, long prior to our Sept. 11 national tragedy in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. However, I do think that we now have one more reason to get on with building the road.

This time we were without airline service for just a few days. If an even more serious event, or natural disaster, were to take place in Seattle, or locally, a hard link to the rest of the world could be very important for either bringing in supplies or evacuating people.

In addition to that, the road to Skagway would bring about not only a tangible, but also a psychological bonding of our capital city to most of the rest of Alaska. I have heard this from a number of people who frequently travel about the state and who have discussed the capital move issue with our northern and western neighbors.

Some oppose the road due to environmental concerns. I do not know anyone who wishes to build a road without addressing and minimizing environmental impact. However, to oppose any road, anywhere, for any reason is not rational. Roads are not all bad. Roads have allowed my family and me to travel, to visit and to drive through many beautiful national parks.

A 65-mile road to Skagway would be not only utilitarian, but also a beautiful and enjoyable drive. Access, literally, is a two-way street (or road) that would give us the freedom to travel without the expense and frustration of dealing with schedules, timetables, reservations and cancellations.

Completion of the environmental impact statement (EIS) would give us the information we need to know regarding the environmental concerns and how to address them. The Empire ran a front-page article in the Aug. 22 issue entitled "Mayor revives road debate." I would like to commend and thank Mayor Sally Smith for contacting Gov. Knowles to request completion of the EIS concerning the road. Both her action and her open mind, as mentioned in the article, are refreshing and appreciated.

As for Gov. Knowles' unilateral decision to choose fast ferries and veto the $1.5 million appropriated by the Legislature to complete the EIS; I do not understand. Especially when $5.1 million has already been spent on the EIS. Does this make sense? I am hopeful that our next governor will offer both Alaska and Juneau the statesmanship we need in order to move forward. We need someone with a "can-do" attitude regarding our short and important connection to both the rest of Alaska and the world.

Hal Ilser


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