Road plan siphoning off needed funds

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2005

It's funny that Mr. Gruening is suddenly so concerned with Juneau's relationship to other Southeast Alaskan communities (letters to the editor, Nov. 3). It seems he has no problem offending not only my community, but also Haines by pushing the Juneau road, a proposal which both communities ardently oppose.

I honestly find the new plan quite confusing, if the real objective is to both cut costs and provide improved transportation. This plan obviously does not accomplish either. The new plan will cost the state 45 percent more than the existing ferry system to maintain and operate. The net cost to the state for the revised road plan is $88 million over 30 years, as compared to $61 million to keep the existing ferry system running according to the Juneau Access Improvements supplemental draft environmental impact statement.

I can't imagine, that when currently 45 percent of all passengers are walking onto the ferry, that this new plan will help transportation issues, but ironically create more. With the new plan, anyone traveling between Haines or Skagway and the rest of Southeast Alaska will either have to bring a vehicle to drive the 75 miles between the existing Auke Bay terminal and the proposed Katzehin terminal or spend $75 to $100 for a cab.

The new plan will also result in longer and less predictable travel times. The state estimates that it will take travelers 2.5 hours to reach Haines and three hours to reach Skagway with the revised road plan, not including the wait time for unreserved shuttle ferries. Travelers can now reach Haines in just over two hours and Skagway in 2.5 hours aboard the Fairweather when wait times are also excluded. The state also estimates that avalanches will keep the Katzehin road closed over a month each year.

The truth of the matter is that the region will not be served by a bridge in Ketchikan or a road in Juneau.

In fact, we've learned recently that each of these projects will siphon off money from the state's core transportation budget. The state predicts that next year alone the state will be short $50 million. Forget seeing those potholes filled, that port fixed, or any new investments in the ferry system.

If we don't spend limited transportation funds more wisely, everyone is going to lose.

Big thanks to the Empire for making that point.

Raymie Eatough


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