First Things First urges Congress to support Juneau Access Road

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - First Things First Alaska Board Member Denny DeWitt said he sees a federal stimulus bill being considered in Washington a real opportunity for supporters of the Juneau Access Road.

    The Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce recently sent out a letter to Haines and Skagway urging their support for putting
    funds for the Juneau Access Road in a stimulus bill for infrastructure.

    The two assemblies took no formal action on the request.  Historically they have opposed the road.

    DeWitt said if the federal government is going to spend money on infrastructure they should use it on the road.

    "It is a good project.  Most of the issues have been resolved.  Many people don't want to acknowledge that," he added.

    The Walker administration in 2017 chose the no-action alternative on the road after federal funding was lined up for it.

    The Dunleavy administration instead has focused work on a ferry terminal at Cascade Point.

    Dewitt said the road would benefit the entire region but he's not surprised that Haines and Skagway remain opposed

    "You have two communities with hard road connections to the intercontinental highway who constantly complain about a lack of ferry service. They also want to make sure Juneau doesn't have that hard link."  

    DeWitt said what role could the road play in improving the ferry system.

    "What can a road do to improve the ferry system for Hoonah, Angoon, and others with no opportunity for hard road access," he asked.

    DeWitt said an integrated transportation plan is needed.  He noted the ferry system is not going to see additional funding in the next few years.

    "A road to Juneau is a critical part of that plan.  It will contribute to the economic growth and well-being of all of Southeast Alaska.  People need to look a little beyond the end of their nose."

    DeWitt said he would not bet the farm on what a legislative body will do especially one so far away in Washington, D.C.

    "We are optimistic and encouraged that these are the kinds of things that the President and many members of Congress are interested in."


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