SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



A Third Proposal
By Patrick Jirschele


December 05, 2005

To provide a feasibility study for a Ketchikan hard link to the mainland.
The Rant
The Gravina Bridge was supposed to enhance access to the airport and make it easier to develop property. National ridicule of the project has forced Congress to remove earmarked bridge monies. This money has been left in the general transportation bill. It is not likely that the powerful Anchorage area districts will appropriate $300 to $350 million for our bridge. We need to be realistic and capture part of the money meant for the bridge to seek ways to plan a future for Ketchikan. The attitude of "bridge or nothing" will leave the community with nothing.
Ketchikan is located on an island with no hard connection to the mainland.

The two methods of travel to and from Ketchikan are by water or by air.

Ferry service in and out of Ketchikan is subject to schedule changes, breakdowns and overcrowding during summer tourist season.

The single commercial air carrier, beside the air taxis, has been experiencing the financial woes of high maintenance and rising fuel costs. This has been reflected in their fares.
Almost all goods are transported in and out of Ketchikan by barge.
The failure of the air carrier or a State reduction of funding for the ferry system would prove disastrous to Ketchikan's fragile economy. 
Ketchikan has the first deep water port north of Puget Sound on U.S. soil. The port has multiple egresses, deep water anchorage, wharves, a shipyard, U.S. Coast Guard supply center, and an airport that can handle a C5 cargo plane. We need to make the community of more strategic importance to the military by building a hard link to the mainland.
There is a plan for a road in the Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan. The Ketchikan part of the Bradfield Canal system is many years down the road. If my intent was to build a road to Wrangell, I would go the Bradfield route. If my intent was to go to Ketchikan, I would go up the Unuk River trail right-of-way.

The Solution
Build a railroad. The British Columbia Railroad has been extended to Dease
Lake and, if the scale on my map is close, it is about a hundred and seventy miles from Ketchikan. The road is about a hundred and fifteen miles.

jpg map

Why a railroad? Because it is more cost effective to build and maintain than a highway. It leaves a smaller footprint, is easier to keep open in the winter and most importantly, a railroad will handle more weight. That is why the State is extending the railroad 80 miles to Fort Greely and why connecting Fort Greely to Dease Lake was the subject of discussion at the Alaska-Canada Rail Corridor Conference in April. Southeast Alaska was not included in the discussions.
Not only would a hard link make Ketchikan more attractive for home porting war ships, it would bring in a different class of tourist. We now cater to the five hour tourist who spends very little. A hard link will bring in the fifty to five hundred hour tourist in cars and motor homes. These are the folks who buy gas, groceries and eat in restaurants.
The Conclusion
We need to act and plan for a diverse future. Ketchikan has too many assets and too many talented citizens to be floundering economically. 
 If you like this proposal and would like to see it or something similar  implemented, contact the Borough Assembly Members, the City Council Members, Bert Stedman, Jim Elkins and Governor Murkowski. Time is short to get it into the State Transportation Bill. I have been told (second or third hand) that proposals have to be submitted by the ninth of December. If it is true, act now. It doesn't need to be all or nothing.

Patrick Jirschele
Pennock Island, AK - USA


Note: As a member of the USCG Pat Jirschele was transferred to Ketchikan in the summer of 1980 and never left. Now retired from the IBEW, he is building a home on Pennock Island.


Related Viewpoint:

letter A Proposal By Patrick Jirschele - Pennock Island, AK - USA

letter A Second Proposal By Patrick Jirschele - Pennock Island, AK - USA


Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
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Ketchikan, Alaska