State seeks to join fight in road suit

Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Alaska Department of Law is seeking to join in a lawsuit over the proposed road north of Juneau.

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A coalition of environmental groups are opposed to construction of the $258 million Juneau Access road, and have filed suit against the Federal Highway Administration in an attempt to stop it. The state Tuesday moved to join the lawsuit by filing for intervenor status, Attorney General David Marquez announced.

"This lawsuit could hinder or prevent construction of the first segment of the project, which is a project that will ultimately make the state's capital more accessible to its citizens," he said in a press release announcing the filing.

The road, he said would lower costs of moving people and goods to Juneau, while still protecting the environment.

One of the road's opponents, grassroots organizer Erica Bjorum of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council welcomed the state's action, saying that state was the one pushing for the road in the first place.

"It mostly just makes sense to us that they're getting involved. They're the main force wanting this expensive and dangerous road to happen," she said.

The state would extend Glacier Highway 51 miles north from Echo Cove up the east side of Lynn Canal to a shuttle ferry terminal just north of the Katzehin River.

The project, called the Juneau Access Project by state officials and the Juneau Road Extension by SEACC, has previously been defended by the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S Department of Transportation.

State agencies took a lead role in the environmental work being challenged in court, Marquez said.

If the court grants the state's motion to intervene as a full-party defendant, the state will have the ability to participate in every aspect of the litigation, said Mark Morones, spokesman for Marquez.

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