Transportation is always among the common themes that emerge when economic development and quality of life issues are discussed.
That's no surprise. The ability for any business to do its job well depends on transportation. Can people access the business easily? Can the business export its goods in an efficient and safe manner? Can the raw materials needed by a business arrive on time? Are the transportation systems such that businesses can grow? If one transportation system fails, is there another one in place?
A reliable transportation infrastructure is a cornerstone of economic development.
Likewise, one of the factors by which the quality of life of a community is measured is the quality of its transportation systems. The heated debates sparked by too many potholes, too much traffic and speed limits on icy, curvy roads, not to mention the condition of harbors, docks and airports, point to the value Kenai Peninsula residents place on their ability to get from Point A to Point B safely and by multiple means.
Transportation systems and their upkeep are expensive. That's why dollars spent on transportation projects should have the most long-term benefit possible.
The business development manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough's Division of Community and Economic Development is currently looking for recommendations from residents on transportation projects for the Upper Cook Inlet area.
Jack Brown has been appointed by the chairs of the Alaska House and Senate transportation committees to a panel whose project recommendations can be used by legislative leaders, Gov. Tony Knowles' administration and Alaska's congressional delegation. The committee is charged with focusing on "those projects that constitute the major nodes of transportation movement in the Upper Cook Inlet," according to the letter asking Brown to serve on the committee. Brown is being asked to identify what he believes are the top two Upper Cook Inlet transportation projects.
Brown rightly sees this as a unique opportunity for area residents to help shape the future with some creative ideas that will result in maximum benefits for the borough. He believes the most viable projects will blend industrial and quality of life concerns.
In early discussions with community leaders, a deep-water port with a dock is emerging as the leader for one recommendation. That project, if located in Nikiski, would fit with the industrial park currently under discussion by the borough assembly.
Other suggested projects include improved highways, improved airport facilities and a railroad spur -- a project that has received attention during the economic development forums held in the past two years.
Brown wants to hear what residents see as the most promising transportation projects. People with comments and suggestions can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at 262-6355. Brown also encourages residents to let assembly members and legislators know what they consider the priorities for transportation dollars.
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