Gravina property owners ask for road, ferry money

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2005

KETCHIKAN, - Some Gravina Island property owners are asking the state Department of Transportation for $20 million worth of roads and ferry developments.

Critics have called the proposed Gravina bridge a bridge to nowhere, and "the easiest way to take care of that is to make 'somewhere' out of it," said Steve Seley, president of Pacific Log and Lumber on Gravina.

Seley said he wrote a letter to ask the state to build a road to Vallenar Point for $5 million, purchase a new ferry for $5 million and build two ferry terminals for about $10 million. He showed the letter to a neighbor, who asked to also sign the letter.

Several other Gravina Island owners also signed the request.

The Dec. 6 request calls for the state to spend the same amount it already spent studying the bridge project. And if the bridge does pass the legislative process, the $15 million for a ferry and terminals would be unnecessary, Seley said.

One of the ferry terminals would be built in or near Ward Cove, he said. The other would be on Gravina Island, perhaps near Rosa Reef. That plan would alleviate congestion in the 1,000-foot stretch of Tongass Narrows where five ferries, two barge companies and the Ketchikan Shipyard conduct operations, he said.

One member of the Gravina Island group, Eric Tyson, has land north of Ketchikan. He said the group was not asking state transportation officials to take $20 million away from the $223 million Congress initially earmarked for bridges and roads connecting Revillagigedo Island to the Ketchikan International Airport on Gravina.

"We're not asking for this instead of a bridge," Tyson said. "We just want to see some development over there."

The earmark for the Gravina project - as well as $229 million earmarked for a span linking Anchorage to the Matanuska-Susitna Kenai Peninsula over Knik Arm - was recently dropped by Congress, which let the state keep the money, leaving it up to state officials to figure out how to spend it.

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