Governor stops pioneer road

Cites 'questionable' procurement, lack of public access

Posted: Friday, December 15, 2006

Gov. Sarah Palin put a stop Thursday to a controversial construction access road planned north of Juneau.

The project was budgeted for $45 million in state money as a preliminary step toward a permanent, paved road connecting the capital with the rest of the state.

An $18.6 million contract for the gravel "pioneer" road had been awarded to Southeast Road Builders, a Haines-based company that specializes in road building. A losing bidder had filed a legal protest over the way the contract was awarded.

Palin announced her decision in a press release and directed the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to halt the project.

She said that the 18-foot-wide road, as planned, was not what Alaskans need and was not in the best interest of the state.

Her statement said:

"Alaskans expect practical results and a transparent process.

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I am canceling this project because it would only achieve a narrow road, with incomplete segments including two major rivers without bridges and would not be open to the public when completed.

"I also believe the use of an emergency procurement was questionable and a more straightforward approach is appropriate."

Transportation spokeswoman Mary Siroky said that the department will now await required Corps of Engineers permits before advertising for the project again.

The new contract would likely be for the full road project, not just the pioneer road. That project was estimated to cost $80 million and would extend to Sweeney Creek. It would serve as the first leg of the projected Lynn Canal Highway, connecting Juneau to Skagway.

"It will be a two-lane, usable road with permanent bridges," Siroky said. With permits in hand, the department will be able to use both federal and state dollars for the project.

Palin also directed the transportation department to delay any further contracting on the project until the new administration had a chance to first review it.

The cancellation seemed to resolve a protest that had been filed by Kiewit Pacific Co., an Anchorage firm that contended that it was, in fact, the lower bidder.

A lawsuit and subsequent appeal to the Alaska Supreme court resulted, but were dismissed, and Kiewit was told to follow the department's bid protest procedures.

Southeast Road Builders declined comment Thursday.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at

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