KETCHIKAN -- The state is recommending two bridges touching on Pennock Island as the best way to improve access to Gravina Island, where Ketchikan's airport is located. The project could cost $190 million, officials say.
Currently, travelers between Ketchikan and its airport take a shuttle ferry.
Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Joe Perkins said the selection is a significant step toward turning the proposed bridge into a reality. He and Gov. Tony Knowles announced the decision Monday.
The Alaska congressional delegation has obtained $20 million in federal money to start the project, Knowles said. The state's match is 20 percent. If the delegation succeeds in securing the full cost, the crossing could be the biggest construction project in Southeast Alaska in a decade, Knowles said.
The proposal calls for a low bridge to cross over the east channel of Tongass Narrows from Revillagigedo Island to Pennock Island. Continuing west, the roadway would gain elevation as it traversed Pennock, then cross over the west channel of Tongass Narrows to Gravina on a second bridge more than 200 feet tall.
State officials said the Pennock alternative was chosen, in part, because it allows the passage of major cruise ships, has less impact on float plane traffic and the Ketchikan International Airport and is less visibly intrusive than some of the seven other options studied.
The Pennock decision isn't final. The announcement starts a 60-day public comment process, after which the state will make its final recommendation.
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