Palin should do away with 'pioneer' road

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, December 15, 2006

Hopefully by the time this letter is published Gov. Palin will have canceled the contract for Frank Murkowski's ill advised "pioneer" road to the Kensington Mine. What the governor should do instead is get an independent assessment of the true cost of the entire Juneau to Katzehin road project. An assessment done by parties that do not have a long history of advocating for a road regardless of the financial cost, or of the cost to the environment of Berners Bay and Lynn Canal. In other words, an audit by parties not associated with the current leadership of the Department of Transportation.

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As demonstrated by the embarrassing, shameful and hurried last-minute rounds of bidding for Murkowski's dirt road, the department has severely low-balled the cost of the project. And probably not just for Murkowski's 18-mile stretch of road. The state has spent the summer taking core samples and collecting other data but has not released the results of its efforts. Is it true that DOT has been sweeping bad news under the rug in regards to slope stability along the steep portions of the road's route north of Berners Bay, or of costs associated with bridge and terminal foundations? If this is the case, then the project would require the removal and disposal of much more material along the majority of the Juneau road route and more costly bridges. This in turn could mean that the cost could easily turn out to be double or more than what DOT has so far told the public it would cost.

This would mean that the state does not have nearly enough money to finish the project, or much likelihood of obtaining it out of a Congress that has had enough of Alaska projects to nowhere. Palin needs to pry all the information she can out of DOT and make an assessment of the road project based on fact, not fantasy. And nothing should be built until full funding is in place. Otherwise four years from now the governor could be trying to answer questions about why she went ahead with a project that has only resulted in an unfinished, nonfunctional, environmental disaster of a road that has swallowed up hundreds of millions of much-needed state transportation dollars. No governor should want that as a legacy.

Mark Rorick


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