For many years, the construction of highways and other Interior transportation projects was hastened by a Fairbanks-based team, which gave priority to ensuring those projects were engineered to go the moment funds became available. When projects in other regions were delayed, or funds turned up ahead of schedule, Interior residents reaped the benefits of the foresight displayed by the state Department of Transportation's local construction team.
By no means are we implying this is no longer the case. The point is that given Alaska's short construction season prudent project managers make every effort to assemble necessary designs, or permits, well in advance of when they might be required. There is no better defense against costly delays.
Gov. Tony Knowles makes a good case for pursuing permits necessary for an Alaska natural gas pipeline with similar dispatch.
He wants to launch the field work necessary to gather data for permits as soon as weather allows this spring. Knowles initially put the cost of that field work and other related pipeline permit initiatives at $2 million.
Some members of the Legislature are suggesting $600,000 might be a more reasonable -- read that politically acceptable -- figure for inclusion in a supplemental budget.
We understand from the governor that sum is sufficient to get started, but should be viewed as a down payment on what the state may end up spending out-of-pocket to hasten construction of the gas line.
We'd hate to see lawmakers nickel and dime a project holding such huge potential for Alaska's future. But we will suggest the legislative funding vehicle ought to include language directing the state's team to seek permits for an Interior pipeline sized to keep the full slate of marketing options open.
Any state investment should not only be aimed at hastening development of the Alaska Highway pipeline to the Lower 48 currently in vogue, it must also keep open prospects for both a spur line serving Anchorage, and liquefied natural gas shipments from Valdez. That's the down payment we endorse and want to see.
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