Funding for Juneau Access Project awaits governor’s decision

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska officials are hoping to make funds available to give the Juneau Access Project another go.

The Legislature passed a spending bill that funds several projects throughout southeast Alaska. Among them is the access project, CoastAlaska News reported Tuesday. The project would involve building 50 miles (80 kilometers) of road that follows the coastline. From there, a ferry would take cars to Skagway or Haines.

That would connect the communities with the state’s road system, making the state capital much more accessible.

Gov. Bill Walker halted the project two years ago, saying the state could not afford it.

Sen. Dennis Egan, a Juneau Democrat, said that was a mistake.

“Everybody you talk to in the Railbelt, especially, says, ‘Why can’t you drive to the capital?” Well, unlike Honolulu, we could make a way to drive to Juneau,” he said.

Lawmakers put about $20 million back in this year’s capital budget to continue planning for the road project.

Walker, however, could veto the spending.

First Things First Foundation executive director Denny DeWitt said a recent survey suggested more than half of capital city residents support the project. Fewer than 40 percent of respondents opposed it.

“It’s not the whole package, but it will continue moving the process through the decision-making process,” DeWitt said. “Hopefully what we’ve done in terms of looking at what Juneau wants in its transportation policies, hopefully it will have some impact on elected officials.”

Opponents have said the project would damage the ocean and shore where the road would be built. They are also concerned that travelers also would still have to take a short ferry ride to connect to the mainland road system.

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This story has been corrected to say the proposed road would follow the coastline.

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