I always chuckle with skepticism when reading retired business banker Win Gruening’s articles about the endless economical benefits of the proposed Juneau Access road.
In his Jan. 21 column, “Is there a light at the end of the road?” Gruening again exaggerates the benefits of the Lynn Canal Highway.
With a seriously gloomy economical forecast straight ahead, and no bright lights in sight, this is no time to invest hundreds of millions of dollars, no matter whose money it is, on infrastructure projects just to boost the economy. This is exactly what the Chinese have been doing for the last decade, and this flawed ideology has totally backfired on them.
When one government entity relies on big government handouts just to keep its city, province or region shielded from economically difficult times and unsustainable growth, we are looking at a form of welfare that will eventually end, leaving the state (in this case Juneau) struggling to find replacement funding.
Instead of funding a behemoth, the fed’s $574 million could be used to prop up construction jobs throughout the region — such as upgrading existing roads and bridges — instead of leaving the state responsible and reliable for the maintenance, and the unknown economical outcome of this one-time mega project.
I have to wonder if the The McDowell Group and Gruening have ever read and tried to understand the geo-technical report commissioned by the Alaska Department of Transportation from Golder and Associates. The report’s findings on this project shows hazards and the technological nightmare of constructing.
This dead-end highway would have to deal with the impact of 31 avalanche paths, 54 rock-fall hazard areas, 42 debris flows, three landslide hazards and a total of 81 unpredictable gravity-driven events. Furthermore, DOT’s own analysts show that in the long term this 50-mile extension will cost the state more in maintenance than the current ferry configuration in Lynn Canal. This should be enough information to cancel this project once and for all.
The McDowell Group and Gruening exclaim that 165,000 new visitors would come to Juneau. They would be driving around and creating gridlock on our already limited single-lane roads, and would be RV camping in our grocery store parking lots. How exactly does this benefit us?
He predicts that about a 100,000 visitors will be visiting Haines and Skagway. Do you seriously think that these communities want this? Of course not!
The vast majority of the three communities oppose this project. Most people choose simplicity and quality of life over spending money on unnecessary projects that the state cannot afford and that harm our natural environment.
Like it or not the ferries offer greater flexibility to the state. They can be re-arranged and adjusted to the demands of the changing demographics of the region. With two new ferries being built locally in Ketchikan and going into service next year, I urge Gov. Bill Walker to mothball option 2B and give the new Alaska class ferries a chance to serve the people of Southeast.
This would be in our best interest.