Juneau mayor asks Knowles to back study of road to Skagway

Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Mayor Sally Smith has asked Gov. Tony Knowles to back completion of an environmental impact statement on a plan to build a road from Juneau to Skagway.

But a spokesman for Knowles said the governor's opposition to the plan hasn't changed.

Smith revived the plan to counter critics who want to move the state Legislature from Juneau to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Smith said she is concerned about what role capital access would play in the debate since there is currently no road out of Juneau.

A citizen group has proposed an initiative to move the Legislature to the Mat-Su Borough for the 2002 election.

Knowles has publicly opposed the $300 million road between Juneau and Skagway and last year vetoed $1.5 million earmarked for the study. The environmental impact statement, a precursor to construction, has already cost $5.1 million.

Bob King, Knowles' press secretary, said the road would forestall other transportation projects throughout the state and wouldn't stifle efforts to move the Legislature.

''I fundamentally still believe that access to the capital is more vastly improved by the information highway than by the national highway system,'' King said.

Smith said she and Clark Gruening met with Knowles about two weeks ago. Gruening, a lobbyist and former legislator, is a member of the Alaska Committee, the city-funded group that works to retain the capital.

Smith, who is a former state Representative from Fairbanks, said there is already adequate voter access to legislators when they return to their districts. But she said a finished environmental impact statement would send a positive message to the rest of the state.

Voters in Juneau narrowly chose to improve the ferry service rather than build a road during an October 2000 advisory referendum.

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