The following editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:
If we’re going to get anywhere, it will be with the federal transportation bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.
The bill, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, provides funding for the nation’s highways, ferries and railroads for the next five years.
All in Alaska’s congressional delegation worked on the bill, which results in millions of dollars coming into the state. Alaska will receive more than $2.6 billion between fiscal year 2016 and 2020.
The two programs in Southeast expecting to receive money are the Alaska Marine Highway System and the Tongass National Forest.
The bill increases the ferry funding from $67 million to $80 million nationally, which includes $18.6 million for Alaska ferries. This is an increase from $18.2 million per year. Over five years, that’s a $2 million increase.
The bill also clarifies that reciprocal easements and rights-of-way in the Tongass will be granted between the state and the feds. This will help pave the way for road and other infrastructure projects.
This bill is especially vital given state finances. It commits dollars to not only maintaining but building the infrastructure necessary for any community or state to build an economy. The economy doesn’t grow unless there is a route for commerce.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski served on the conference committee that melded the Senate and the House versions of the bill. Congressman Don Young serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, while Sen. Dan Sullivan is on the Senate’s Commerce Committee.
President Obama signed the bill only days after its passage.
This bill and its supporters are providing some stability to the states’, and, in tandem, the communities’ economies when it is needed most.