Occasionally we can see the great humor involved in much of the rhetoric that cascades forth every time a major highway project is proposed in Alaska. You just have to laugh, in other words, when you think about the opposition that unfortunately is common throughout the nation.
This is brought to mind because of a report in the Christian Science Monitor newspaper three weeks ago about the proposed construction of a road that would give Juneau its first highway link to the rest of the world.
The 68-mile-long road, backed by Gov. Frank Murkowski and as nearly as we can tell most Alaskans outside of Juneau, would connect the state's capital city to Skagway. That would make it possible for people in Anchorage and Fairbanks and Valdez and Homer and Seward and a lot of other places to travel to Juneau without having to board a ferry or catch an airplane or two. Ah, but there's a problem. Here's how Monitor correspondent Todd Wilkinson describes the challenges facing the highway:
''It would require bulldozing and dynamiting through a beloved wildlife-rich wilderness northwest of Juneau called Berners Bay in the Tongass National Forest. Then it would slice across oceanside cliff faces that hold at least 60 dangerous avalanche chutes, and pass above Gran Point, where hundreds of endangered sea lions gather.''
Think of it. Bulldozers. Dynamite. Oceanside cliffs. Endangered sea lions. And worst of all: in the Tongass National Forest!
The buzz words are enough to raise the blood pressure of all true-blue environmentalists, and maybe even encourage them to open their pocketbooks to contribute to any fund available that would help save Alaska from Alaskans.
But wait a minute. That description also brings to mind another highway one that runs along the Pacific Ocean from Washington State to California, along some ocean vistas where sea lions play.
Have you ever driven that coastal highway along the Oregon shore? Gorgeous. It's a highway that in spots runs along cliffs we hate to say it that had to be blasted out by dynamite. And what about those trees? Oh, well, yes, some had to be bulldozed away but do you recall any flaming rhetoric suggesting that the road should not have been built?
And let's not forget that highway also runs through Big Sur country in Northern California. It's one of America's most beautiful and majestic drives.
But that's not Alaska, is it?
What other states have, and what American motorists elsewhere enjoy, is not to be for those of us who live here. A highway to the state capital? How silly, considering building it would require bulldozers and dynamite.
You need to laugh. Otherwise, you'd want to cry.
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