April 02, 2010
Previously in 2004 the Gravina Access Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) examined nine build alternatives and the No Build Alternative. The nine build alternatives included six bridge alternatives and three ferry alternatives. The Final Environmental Impact Statement which was distributed to the public and federal and state agencies on July 30, 2004, identified Alternative F1 as the FHWA's and DOT&PF's Preferred Alternative.
The 2004 Preferred Alternative, Alternative F1 would cross Tongass Narrows via Pennock Island with two bridges: a 200-foot bridge over the East Channel and 120-foot bridge over the West Channel. FHWA issued a Record of Decision on September 15, 2004, and identified Alternative F1 as the Selected Alternative.
However, on Sept. 21, 2007, Governor Sarah Palin announced that the State of Alaska could not fund the selected bridge identified in the Gravina Access Project Record of Decision (Gravina Access Project Redirected 07-192) and directed the DOT&PF to look for the most fiscally responsible alternative for access to Ketchikan International Airport and Gravina Island instead of proceeding further with Alternative F1.
Work did continue on an additional road segment on Gravina Island that was included in Alternative F1. The road segment started on Gravina Island approximately 3.4 miles south of the airport runway and continued north to the intersection of the Airport Access Road and Lewis Reef Road. Referred to as the Gravina Island Highway, work on this road was completed in the fall 2008. The Gravina Island Highway is now open and provides public access to lands on Gravina Island. The work included the site grading, placing embankment, constructing bridges over Government Creek and Gravina Creek, installing drainage structures, and other improvements. Construction of the Gravina Island Highway was complete in the Fall 2008.
The pupose of the Gravina Access Project is to improve surface transportation between Revillagigedo Island, home of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, City of Ketchikan and the City of Saxman, and Gravina Island, the location of the Ketchikan International Airport and adjoining lands that offer recreational and development potential.
Currently, ferry service provides the only regular access to Gravina Island with a terminal at Ketchikan International Airport. Access to the remainder of Gravina Island is available by watercraft and the Lewis Reef Road. The opening of the Gravina Island Highway in 2008 also provides access to some private lands and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough's developable lands north and south of the airport reserve, and to the Bostwick Lake Road and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service's timber lands.
The need for improving access was identified as threefold:
The latest screening report released in March 2010 describes the alternatives previously considered and those that arose during scoping, the screening process, and the reasonable alternatives selected based on financial, environmental, and engineering considerations.
In 2008, FHWA and DOT&PF reassessed the nine reasonable alternatives evaluated in the 2004 FEIS, as well as six new alternatives or variations identified through agency and public comment during SEIS scoping. In 2009, these 15 alternatives, which include both bridge and ferry alternatives, underwent a screening process to determine if the alternatives were reasonable.
The screening process examined the 15 alternatives based on criteria that included the purpose and need for the project, a cost threshold established by the DOT&PF Commissioner, and potential environmental or socioeconomic impacts that would result in the alternative being unacceptable or unpermittable.
Based on this screening process, six alternatives (C3-4, F3, G2, G3, G4, and G4v), as well as the No Action Alternative, have been identified as reasonable alternatives to be evaluated in detail in the Gravina Access Project SEIS.
Following is a brief description of each alternatives identified in the March 2010 Report:
Map courtesy Gravian Access Project
2010 Alternative Descriptions
Alternative C3-4 is 1.9 miles long with a bridge that would be approximately 4,190 feet long. The access would begin at Signal Road near Wal-Mart and cross Tongass Narrows west of the existing airport terminal building. Navigational clearances would accommodate one-way passage of cruise ships and two-way passage of most other ships, including Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) ferries.
F3 (Bridge) Alternative F3 is approximately 5.9 miles long and would cross Tongass Narrows with two bridges via Pennock Island. The access would begin at South Tongass Highway south of the US Coast Guard Station and cross the East Channel to Pennock Island and the West Channel to Gravina Island. The East Channel clearances would not accommodate cruise ships, AMHS ferries, or tall freight barges that currently use the East Channel as their primary navigational route. The West Channel bridge would accommodate one-way passage of cruise ships and two-way passage of most other ships.
G2 (Ferry) Alternative G2 would create new ferry service for vehicles and passengers between Peninsula Point on Revilla Island and Lewis Point on Gravina Island. This alternative would cross Tongass Narrows approximately 2.0 miles north of the airport passenger terminal and would have a sailing distance of approximately 0.8 miles. Two new ferry vessels and construction of a new ferry terminal on each side of Tongass Narrows would be required for this alternative. The new service would complement the existing airport ferry.
G3 (Ferry) Alternative G3 would create new ferry
service for vehicles and passengers between downtown Ketchikan
at Jefferson Street (near the Plaza Mall at Bar Point) on Revilla
Island and a location approximately 1.3 miles south of the airport
passenger terminal on Gravina Island near Clump Cove. The crossing
distance would be approximately 1.3 miles. This alternative would
require construction of a new ferry terminal on each side of
Tongass Narrows and two new ferry vessels. Dredging may be required
to provide adequate
Alternative G4 would create
new ferry service for vehicles and passengers adjacent to the
Alternative G4v is a variant
of Alternative G4 that would provide the same passenger waiting
Federal agencies are required
to assess the effects of a No Action Alternative in an EIS. For
Detail information on the selected alternatives is available in the Gravina Access Project Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) along with the No Action Alternative. More information on the screening process, criteria, evaluation, and determination is also available in the March 2010 Alternatives Screening Report.
The public has been invited to review the 2010 report. Written comments on the report should be submitted by Friday, April 16, 2010.
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