State Selects Preferred Gravina Access Alternative, Again
October 23, 2015
Alternative G4v does not include a new ferry service or new ferry terminals. According to the Alaska Department of Transportation, "Alternative G4v is a ferry service variant that will improve existing ferry facilities for airport travelers and the movement of heavy freight." The alternative includes a passenger waiting facility, a new heavy freight dock and other amenities to improve access for ferry travelers and transporting freight to and from Gravina Island. Additional ferry service and associated terminals would be provided when an increased demand warrants additional service.
Alternative G4v does not include a new ferry service or new ferry terminals.
The federal environmental process, known as the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, was distributed for public review in June 2013. ADOT&PF will conduct an informational public workshop on the preferred alternative in early 2016. A timeline for when construction may begin is not yet known.
The nine build alternatives included six bridge alternatives and three ferry alternatives. The Final EIS 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 FHWA issued a Record of Decision on September 15, 2004, and identified Alternative F1 as the Selected 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.
On Sept. 21, 2007, Governor Sarah Palin announced that the State could not fund the selected Alternative F1 bridge alternative identified in the Gravina Access Project Record of Decision and directed the Department of Transportation to look for the most fiscally responsible alternative for access to the airport and Gravina Island instead of proceeding further with Alternative F1.
The 2004 Preferred Alternative F1 included a road segment on Gravina Island to connect the bridge over West Channel to the Airport Access Road. The road segment, referred to as the Gravina Island Highway, started approximately 3.4 miles south of the airport runway and continued north to the intersection of the Airport Access Road and Lewis Reef Road. The DOT&PF had moved forward with construction of the Gravina Island Highway prior to Governor Palin’s announcement and completed construction of the highway in the fall 2008. The Gravina Island Highway cost approximately $26 million and is now open and provides public access to lands on Gravina Island. Access to the highway is by ferry.
In 2008, the Federal Highway Administation 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. And again in 2009, these 15 alternatives, which include both bridge and ferry alternatives, underwent a screening process to determine if the alternatives were reasonable. Six build alternatives were determined reasonable in 2000.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in partnership with the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) released the Gravina Access Project Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS) for review and comment on June 21, 2013. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), this Draft SEIS examines the social, economic, and environmental impacts of proposed alternatives to improve public access between Revillagigedo Island and Gravina Island. It also examines a No Action alternative.
Thursday, October 21, 2015, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced that it has now decided to recommend the Gravina Access Project Alternative G4v as the state’s preferred alternative to the Federal Highway Administration. Alternative G4v does not include a new ferry service or new ferry terminals.
The Ketchikan International Airport is owned by the State of Alaska and is operated by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. According to the KGB's website, it is the fifth busiest airport in Alaska.
The stated purpose of the Gravina Access Project was to improve surface transportation from Revillagigedo Island, where the community of Ketchikan resides, to nearby Gravina Island, the location of the Ketchikan International Airport. The U.S. Census Bureau reports in 2014 the population of the Ketchikan Borough was 13,787.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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