SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


74 Southeast Businesses Send Candidates
Letter Supporting Ferries, Not Juneau Road


October 25, 2006

Seventy-five businesses from Haines, Juneau, and Skagway sent a message to gubernatorial candidates early this week asking for reliable and predictable ferry service in Southeast Alaska. The letter asks candidates to "run the ferry system more like a business" by reducing the gap between expenditures and revenues to provide affordable transportation to the communities of the region.  



The businesses range from art gallery owners to seafood companies, from boat builders to outfitters. The letter also explains that constructing a dead-end road to a new ferry terminal in the Lynn Canal is not a viable solution for the transportation needs of the region.

"Our next governor needs to understand that a lot of us in the business community think improving the ferry system is the best transportation option for coastal Alaska," says Jan Wrentmore of Skagway. "The economies of our communities depend on reliable, predictable marine transportation."

"The Haines Borough, Haines Chamber of Commerce, Haines Planning Commission and the Skagway city council have passed resolutions and sent numerous letters that we want improved ferry service, not an extension on the Juneau Road," says Darsie Culbeck, of Alaska Mountain Guides and Climbing School, Inc., Haines. "The next Governor needs to respect community sentiment and realize that there are better ways to spend our money than building a road in place of an existing public transportation system."

Money spent on the Juneau road will take away funding from other transportation projects around the state. The Environmental Impact Statement for the road details that $111 million from a special federal fund (Shakwak Funding) is being reallocated to extend the Juneau Road. This money could be spent on replacing and repairing aging Marine Highway vessels. Roughly half the projects proposed in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) will go unfunded in the next decade, and in a statement to the House Transportation Committee, the Alaska Department of Transportation estimates that there's a $10 billion backlog in maintenance statewide. The $45 million of general fund money currently dedicated to the Juneau Road extension could go to education, health care, energy development, or meeting the many other economic needs of Southeast Alaska.

"Improving the ferries and opposing the Juneau road are issues that unite people across the board in Haines-people who normally disagree politically, agree on this," says Dan Egolf of Alaska Nature Tours in Haines. "The comparative safety, value, and reliability of ferries over roads were made crystal clear in Valdez when I was stranded there two weeks ago along with a few hundred folks at a convention. The road and bridges washed out and we had to be rescued by the ferries. The Department of Transportation says the road and bridges won't be fully repaired until next spring!"


Source of News:

Southeast Alaska Conservation Council

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Ketchikan, Alaska