Gov. Murkowski's recent proposal to bypass burdensome federal bureaucracy by building critical highway projects with state funds is exactly the kind of bold and creative approach Alaska needs in order to break the logjam of long-overdue road projects.
It also poses a tremendous near-term opportunity to fix stretches of the antiquated original Seward Highway and Sterling Highway before it claims even more victims.
I'm referring to two specific projects, Mile 18 to Mile 36 Snow River to the junction with the Sterling Highway where curves, narrow roads and the lack of shoulders pose hazardous driving conditions that have resulted in close to 10 fatalities and numerous serious accidents. And the equally dangerous and infamous "Cooper Landing Bypass Project" that has been stymied by studies and numerous public hearings to the point that reaching a clear consensus is impossible.
As traffic volumes have grown through increased tourism and the Kenai Peninsula's strategic role in resource development, the urgency of these improvements has grown exponentially. But they've been stalled for years in the highly statewide-politicized Department of Transportation and Public Facilities' Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP).
Improving our highway infrastructure plays a vital role in promoting economic development and transportation safety, and I applaud the governor's initiative to use bonds backed by Amerada Hess funds in order to proceed with new road projects like the Seward and Sterling Highway upgrades and sooner rather than later.
Federal law requiring environmental impact statements for highway projects funded with federal dollars does little to protect the environment or to promote meaningful constructive public input.
This stonewalling tactic has effectively resulted in undue and unnecessary delays, and it has become little more than another arrow in the quiver of environmental activists who oppose anyone building anything, anywhere, anytime. If that's the cost of securing federal dollars for our vital highway projects in Alaska, maybe we need to become a bit more self-reliant through the prudent use of our petro dollars.
I urge my fellow Kenai Peninsula residents to support the governor's roads program and let our elected state officials know that Seward and Sterling Highway upgrades should be among the very top priorities and these projects are long overdue with public safety being the "driving" issue.
Dale R. Lindsey, Seward
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