Residents should ask questions about road

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, November 26, 2004

When it comes to a new road, is it really as "harebrained," as Mr. Hardin writes in his letter (Nov. 15) to ask questions that should concern tourists and residents of Juneau alike?

Tourism is certainly an important part of Juneau's economy, but if we compromise the very things that make Juneau worth visiting, will our tourist-oriented economy continue to support us? What will be the impact of more traffic on our streets? What about protecting the quality of hunting and fishing spots that are in the way of construction? One of the biggest questions about the proposed Juneau Road is its long-term cost. Even though the RV crowd that Mr. Hardin belongs to wouldn't drive the proposed road in the winter, those of us who live here might.

Yet the proposed road would skirt 58 avalanche chutes along 65 miles of road affording nearly one potential avalanche per mile. Maintenance and avalanche mitigation will be necessary annual costs. Once the initial $300 million is spent to build the road (does anyone really believe that the proposed road will be completed at or under budget?), where will the money come from to keep it open? Will it even be open all winter? How safe will it be? The road to Thane isn't even reliable and it only skirts one avalanche chute.

The Marine Highway System has been a part of Southeast Alaska for more than 40 years. As a community of islands, ferries are a unique part of what binds us together. Reasonable folks may disagree about many things, but successful managers know that it is important to invest in projects that work for all concerned. Which is the more "harebrained" concept: Improving a system that already works for Alaska, or buying something that will permanently damage our landscape, require expensive upkeep, and even under the best of circumstances only work for part of the year?

Jesse Dizard


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