Juneau to hold advisory vote on road out

Posted: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Juneau voters get a chance this fall to say whether they want a road out of town or better ferry service.

The Juneau Assembly combined two proposed advisory votes -- one on a road to the Haines-Skagway area, the other on fast ferry service -- into a single nonbinding question on the October municipal ballot:

''Which of the following do you support for improving access from Juneau north: Pick one: Enhanced ferry service. A road.''

The state Department of Transportation began a formal study to improve access to Juneau in 1992 and completed a draft environmental impact statement for the Lynn Canal road project connecting Juneau with Skagway and Haines in late 1997.

Earlier this year, Gov. Tony Knowles announced his goal to drop the road as a state project -- at least for now -- and to focus on improving the marine highway system with fast ferries. One reason given was opposition to the project in Haines, Skagway and Juneau.

''This is a really, really foolish idea,'' said Joe Geldhof, an attorney who represents the ferry engineers' union. ''It's a bogus beer commercial -- tastes great, less filling.''

Geldhof called the decision to put the issue to a vote ''dysfunctional.''

On the other side, lobbyist Rick Urion, a former legislator and road advocate, characterized some assembly members' unwillingness to put the issue on the ballot as ''arrogant.''

''I think people will support the road,'' said former Juneau Mayor Jamie Parsons. ''The vote will send a message to the administration, that the community does want a road.''

Former DOT Southeast Regional Director Jon Scribner said critics' predictions of road-induced traffic problems in Juneau and road construction costs of $300 million to $400 million were grossly exaggerated.

Scribner said a tremendous amount of engineering expertise went into the department's $230 million road estimate, he said.

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