My Turn: The logical road a big win for the future of Juneau

Posted: Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mal Menzies' Aug. 29 column in the Empire and Tim Whiting's in the Sept. 5 edition concerning the Juneau access road are most enlightening. I sincerely hope all Juneauites read these publications and understand what is clearly evident. A road up the east side of Lynn Canal is the only choice and to delay the project any longer is a great disservice to Juneau and Southeast Alaska.

There is no real alternative. A ferry is not a road. It is an expensive means to get to a road. I can remember as a child the adults discussing the possibilities of a road and how vitally important to the well-being of Juneau that this be accomplished. Unfortunately a road was never built, and Juneau is still treading water. I believe the future of our community is in jeopardy. I have served for many years on statewide boards and have listened to the board members time and time again supporting land access to their capital. It is very important to all of Alaska that the Juneau access be completed as soon as possible.

The time has passed when we can ignore the escalating expense of residing in Juneau. Not a day goes by that some cost-of-living increase is not forced upon us. The outrageous expense in time and money to travel a few miles north is an unnecessary waste of public and private funds. The cost of ferry travel will only escalate in the future, requiring bigger state subsidies. Ferry service must be available to our sister communities that cannot be connected to a road system by any other means. The well-being of all Southeast Alaska is dependent on Juneau remaining viable and strong. To me, those who sit and pretend that costly ferry service should be Juneau's first choice are very myopic in their views and show little regard for reality. To build our road is expensive, but once it is built the savings will add up from now on and we will wonder why it was not completed sooner.

There are always those who will oppose any change in the status quo. It may be that change frightens them or they have a certain bias belief that they want to force us to accept regardless of the consequences. In the past Juneau has had battles opposing progress but eventually the proper decision was made. I was told years ago that Juneau's downtown streets were mostly wood planking over piling, and when the AJ Mine offered to fill the streets, some were in opposition. Juneau used to be connected to Douglas by shuttle ferry. When the Juneau-Douglas bridge was proposed many opposed it as the ferry was convenient, and Tenth Street was a long way out of town. There were people against the Juneau-Douglas replacement bridge as some felt a little work on the old bridge would be good enough. And let us not forget the controversy over the Egan expressway. That was a battle. But where would we be today if these improvements had not been made? There are many other examples of opposition to worthwhile and very necessary projects.

If all else fails to convince a doubter, just do the math. Tim Reed's excellent My Turn in the Empire on Sept. 8 addressing cost and fuel consumption alone should sway anyone with an ounce of logic that there is no valid reason the Juneau access road should be opposed. Economically and environmentally the road is a big win for all concerned.

• Juneau resident Donald B. Abel owned and operated Don Abel Building Supply.

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