Alaska officials look to resurrect Juneau road project

The Juneau Access Project would build 80 kilometres of road from the state capital to the coastline, where a ferry would take cars to Skagway or Haines.

80 kilometres of road would connect state capital to coastline, and ferries to Haines and Skagway

A cruise ship sits docked near downtown Juneau, Alaska, in 2017. The Juneau Access Project would see a road built to the coastline, where a ferry would take cars to Skagway or Haines. (Becky Bohrer/The Associated Press)

Alaska officials are hoping to make funds available to give the Juneau Access Project another go.

The state Legislature passed a spending bill that funds several projects throughout Southeast Alaska. Among them is the access project, which would build 80 kilometres of road to the coastline, where a ferry would take cars to Skagway or Haines, Coast Alaska News reported Tuesday.

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

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

Democrat Sen. Dennis Egan of Juneau 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 $20 million back in this year's capital budget to continue planning for the road and other projects.

Walker, however, could again veto the spending bill.

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 per cent 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 travellers also would still have to take a short ferry ride to connect to the mainland road system.

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