The road from Juneau to the Katzehin River and Haines is paid in full. We could build it tomorrow without any additional finances. It’s not free, it’s just paid for. That’s a fact. Federal highway money has been allocated to the project and the state of Alaska portion is allocated and in the bank.
The recently released First Things First Foundation study shows it costs a family of four $311 out of pocket to travel to Haines by ferry with a car. That cost is forecast to drop to $74 with the highway. Plus, the ferries are limited in capacity, availability and reliability. And with continuing budget cuts, service will continue to decline. We have already lost 44 percent of vehicle capacity since 2011.
The study personalizes the costs and convenience the highway would provide to individuals and families. It also outlines how the road might impact the costs and availability of goods and services in Juneau, Haines and Skagway. It shows the highway would save DOT money per traveler, increase car capacity and opportunities to travel by up to 10 times or more, and be more reliable than ferries. Trucking on the highway would reduce the cost of goods in Juneau and provide a new outlet for fresh seafood.
We have the state and federal money already allocated for the entire construction project to Katzehin River, including the shuttle ferry across Lynn Canal to Haines. This would be a quick and frequent shuttle ferry similar to routes from West Seattle to Vashon Island or Mukilteo to Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. All we need to do is finish the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and decide to start building. No other project is ready or will be ready to spend those federal dollars for some years to come. If we want to spur the Alaska construction economy this is the only project to do it. We are talking about approximately 540 construction jobs over six years. That is huge.
Construction of this project would benefit the entire state because workers migrate to the work. That is the way it has always been. Everyone gets a piece of the action and the money is in the bank. Let’s build the road!