Treacherous road

Posted: Sunday, October 27, 2002

The other day Don Young had quite a bit to say about the need to construct a road between Juneau and Skagway in order to save the capital. Anyone who has not yet made up their mind on this issue might want to read an article entitled "Journey to Juneau: By Land It's a Horror Fraught with Moose."

The piece appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on March 4, 1996, and helps put things into proper prospective.

According to the article, a member of the Alaska Legislature had a fear of flying (... or at least flying to Juneau), so he decided to make the 800-mile trip from Anchorage to the capital in his Toyota truck. For three perilous days, he battled mountain passes, temperatures of 50 below zero in the Yukon, ice fog, blinding snow, treacherous roads, and moose everywhere - he actually hit one near Anchorage, and skidded off the road in an attempt to avoid another during a blizzard in the Chilkat Pass. By the end of his journey, the legislator was visibly shaken and quit upset - understandably so. The only uneventful part of the trip, we are told, was the 70-mile ferry ride down the Lynn Canal.

Don Young and others tell us they have a solution - a way to make this legislator and other travelers feel much better about their journey into the jaws of hell each winter. What we need is a quarter-billion dollar road from Skagway to Juneau.

Great idea! That eliminates the uneventful ferry ride. But what about the treacherous roads, the bitter cold temperatures, the blinding snow, the moose, and all the rest? Aside from shortening the three-day trip by four or five hours, it seems a new road would only add to the anxieties of the winter traveler. I suspect the moose problem up north would seem insignificant compared to the avalanche problem along the road from Skagway.

No, I seriously doubt another hundred miles of treacherous road would do much to comfort our hapless legislator or other winter travelers. If we are to convince them to keep the capital in Juneau, we'll have to come up with a better plan than that. Perhaps a more practical solution might be a ticket on Alaska Airlines and a few Valium.

Tom McBrien


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