Questions need to be asked, answered for ferry plan to float

Posted: Sunday, December 21, 2003

The idea of a transportation route to Anchorage across Turnagain Arm is not a new one.

The most often discussed possibility for creating a link between the northern tip of the peninsula and Anchorage always has been the construction of a bridge, a pie-in-the-sky idea which isn't likely to happen any time during the current century.

However, there's a new idea floating around that might someday make the idea of a quick trip to Anchorage a reality.

Kenai Mayor John Williams wants the Kenai Peninsula Borough to work with Anchorage and the Mat-Su with the intention of creating a regional transportation authority. Williams' idea is that eventually, such a partnership could lead to the creation of a new transportation corridor linking Southcentral's three distinct regions via bridges, roads and ferries.

The idea goes something like this:

First, a new ferry being designed for the U.S. military would be used to link Anchorage and Mat-Su via Port Mackenzie. The ferry would then be used to help build a new bridge between downtown Anchorage and the Valley.

As part of the same project, the Kenai Spur Highway would be lengthened by about 30 miles to reach Point Possession. Then, once the bridge between Anchorage and Port Mackenzie is completed, the high speed ferry could be used to shuttle vehicles between the state's largest city and the Kenai Peninsula.

Williams says it would mean a trip from Anchorage to the peninsula would take about 20 minutes. He believes the project will mean an economic boom for the area, creating new, high-priced neighborhoods for city-dwellers, quicker access for tourists and cheaper freight costs for local businesses.

Better still, he thinks the project can be done with federal money because Don Young, Alaska's lone voice in the U.S. House of Representatives, happens to be the chair of the Transportation Committee.

It sounds like a wonderful idea, and if it all comes together like Williams hopes, it very well could be something worth supporting.

But there's a few questions that need to be asked before the borough gets on board for such a project.

Do peninsula residents really want a quick link between here and Anchorage?

Although such a project will certainly mean more tax money for the borough, might it also lead to urban sprawl in North Kenai?

What would a population boom in North Kenai do for the Swanson River system and Captain Cook State Park? For that matter, what would it mean for the Kenai River?

These questions and a number of others need to be asked and answered before our government officials go ahead with the plan. Before we decide to open ourselves up to a quick link between the peninsula and the rest of Southcentral, it's vital that area residents have a chance to voice their opinion. It would be wrong for our leaders to go ahead with a project that doesn't have the endorsement of the community as a whole.

Before any new roads are built, our politicians should find out what their constituents really want, rather than moving too fast on an idea that's been around for longer than most of us have.

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