SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Open letter: Gravina Access Priorities, Public Spending for Roads
By Michael C. Spence


June 28, 2008

Opinion/Letter: Mr Reuben Yost
Gravina Access Coordinator
DOT, Public Facilities
PO Box 506
Juneau, Alaska 99811-2506

RE: Gravina Access Priorities, Public Spending for Roads

Dear Mr. Yost,

In my informed opinion, as long as the road system and infrastructure of Ketchikan on the Revillagigedo Island is poorly maintained, with vast areas either unpaved or pothole-ridden, it is a travesty to spend any more public money on roads on Gravina Island. For example, Tongass Avenue near the main post office, Tongass Highway from Revilla Road to Refuge Cove are a mess. Revilla Road is unpaved over much of the area above Ward Lake recreation area, as is South Tongass Highway from mile 8 to the end of the road at Beaver Falls. Both of the latter roads are frequently used by local residents and visitors. There is inadequate pedestrian access throughout the road system in Ketchikan, and critically inadequate in the downtown area where thousands of tourists and residents alike are on the streets during the Summer.

The present road work on Revillagigedo Island is being done on a piecemeal basis with a tiny paving machine that can scarcely accomplish the work in a reasonable time. Thousands of residents who pay taxes for road maintenance are deprived of safe use of the road system, in large part because of the funding of roads on Gravina Island. The Gravina Highway as it is presently described, has become a public example of misappropriation of public funding, and is regarded nationally as the Road to Nowhere , a successor to the Bridge to Nowhere . This perception did not happen as result of uninformed opinions of a few outsiders. The Bridge to Nowhere is a perception that would be reached by any rational informed body upon careful study of the public need and cost effectiveness of the bridge project.

The only time residents of Ketchikan have been given a chance to vote on the worthiness of the bridge project was several years ago, when the ballot expressly dictated that it was an earmarked project and the funds could not be used for any other purpose than a bridge. In other words, the bridge was imposed on the residents of Ketchikan as a top-down directive, not as a chosen priority of the taxpaying residents.

Thanks to the rational intervention of the U.S. Congress after informed debate, the earmark provision for the bridge was removed, and the money simply given to the State of Alaska to use for road projects. The people of Ketchikan were not subsequently balloted for their input on the use of public road funds on their district. Instead, the Ketchikan Borough Assembly took it upon themselves to fund 20-odd million dollars of public funds to Pacific Logging on Gravina Island for a road to its mill, and Governor Murkowski gave another 25 million to Kiewit Pacific Construction to build another spur from the airport South. The public has raised significant concerns in published forums since these funding events took place, addressing apparent conflict of interest of Mr Murkowski, a landowner on Gravina Island, and Kiewit Pacific and Pacific Logging companies, both of the latter being disclosed as large financial supporters of the incumbent political party .

From the above events, it is apparent that public money for could have been used to repair and pave roads for the people of Ketchikan have instead been diverted without a thorough public process, to fund industrial subsidies for the Pacific Logging and Kiewit Pacific Construction companies.

The needs of the public should come first in the use of DOT funds in Ketchikan. The public will be best served if an improved ferry service is maintained to Gravina Island. Any remaining work on the Gravina Highway should be stopped and the equipment and funding used instead to fix Ketchikans existing road system.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important issue.


Michael C. Spence
Ketchikan, AK

Received June 27, 2008 - Published June 28, 2008



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