The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, (D-N.Y.), once said, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."
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Facts are supported by evidence and experience. Opinions do not require evidence. While I respect the opinions of those who oppose road access to Alaska's capital, based on the facts and my own extensive road-driving experience, I cannot agree with them.
The Lynn Canal Highway will provide safe and convenient access to the rest of the state, reduce the cost of travel in northern Lynn Canal by 90 percent and in the long run, save the state money. It also will do more than anything else we can do to save the ferry system. These are facts.
The escalating cost of road construction is a direct result of delays and should not deter us from moving forward once the final permits are issued. While road costs have risen by 37 percent, the cost of ferry replacement has more than doubled. This road should be viewed as a long-term investment whose initial costs are permanent and long-term.
The statement issued by the governor's office on Monday recognizes the big-picture significance of this project, for example, "The governor feels this road is a key part of the Department of Transportation's long-term plans for transportation throughout Southeast Alaska."
The only way to improve transportation in Southeast is to build roads wherever possible and shorten ferry runs. Roads have been shown to sustain our transportation needs for centuries and only require occasional improvements. To rely exclusively on ferries is to assume there will always be legislative support for operational subsidies, (currently running around $100 million annually), costly upkeep and total replacement. There is simply no evidence to support that belief.
Instead of purchasing new mainline ferries in Louisiana or Mississippi, it's time to put our own people to work building the Lynn Canal Highway. Over the long term, we'll save millions in ferry maintenance and operations, reduce the cost of travel for our families and improve our quality of life in ways never imagined.