By John Stewart
December 08, 2005
We do not have any local bridge builders. The entire country has very few companies capable of building anything remotely resembling the proposed Gravina access bridge, and it's unlikely that they are sitting on their backsides after the destruction of the Gulf Coast region. There has been no core sampling of the proposed approaches on the town side. The failure to do so on the Third Avenue extension resulted in the most expensive mile of road in existence; upwards of $30,000,000.00. That bi-pass would have been moved onto the ridge behind and carried all the way out to Wal-Mart with access tie-ins to the president streets had there been adequate study before starting. No one can answer what the total costs will be if we choose to build another monument to stupidity. Guaranteed to be far in excess of anything we have yet seen and at the expense of other essential projects. I first saw the roads platted on Gravina Island in about 1969 with a proposed high bridge between there and Pennock Island and a low link from the south end of Pennock to South Tongass. That was well before we were being visited by the mega ships of today that are considered too large for the West Channel. The impact on navigation should also cause some trepidation.
We do have all of the expertise and labor force necessary to build roads, ferry terminals, boat harbors, parking lots, recreation areas, houses and businesses. We, as a community, need to address our actual goals rather than be caught up in any one way of reaching them. Ask yourself if you want a bridge or do want improved access to local resources, including, but not limited to the airport? If you choose a bridge and road to the airport, that is all you will get, not even an off-ramp onto Pennock Island, let alone any roads to access the land there. If, on the other hand you look at the objective of improved accessibility to the airport and the land resources, it makes much more sense to enhance what we already have in place. The limited roads on Gravina Island could be extended from Vallenar Bay to Gravina Point/Blank Inlet and beyond together with another ferry terminal and small boat harbors. Establishing a road system and ferry terminal/boat harbors on Pennock Island would only be the start. Extending the road system back into Behm canal and further into George Inlet are also great prospects for opening more land for development. All of these access corridors could be built for less than the price of the bridge and have the potential to spur a building boom if we make way for affordable land.
Every contractor in this community should realize that they and their crews would have work to spare for years to come regardless if they are in on pioneering the roads, laying down the pavement, polishing the front door of a new home or anything in between. I find it especially noteworthy that prominent among the group "Save Our Bridge" (or SOB) are some of the same individuals who have, in the recent past, brought us the Wards Cove debacle and started us on the path to where we stand with the Schoenbar school. If you are the least bit interested in the future of your community, you owe it to yourself and your children to speak to your representatives. Let them know you are interested in what is best for the whole community. Keep in mind that this community is only a small part of the larger community of the State and there are many needs competing for these funds. The more realistic we are, the more likely we will be able to enhance our already impressive assets. The attitude of the bridge or nothing is dangerously arrogant.
Note: John Stewart has been a resident for 40 years. He states, "I've worn many hats; fishing, construction and commerce. I also enjoy research and the study of economics."
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