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Monday, August 20, 2018
HomePolitics and PolicyJustin Parish, Sam Kito vote against Juneau Access

Justin Parish, Sam Kito vote against Juneau Access

When the chips were down, Reps. Justin Parish and Sam Kito of Juneau voted against the Juneau Access Project, which would have brought hundreds of jobs and better ferry service for all of Southeast Alaska.
On the House floor on Monday, Reps. Lance Pruitt, Charisse Millett, Chris Birch, and Dan Saddler, of Anchorage, and Tammie Wilson of North Pole, spoke powerfully about the importance of building a long-awaited 48-mile road that would allow for a short ferry crossing to Haines. They advocated for access to the capital and the importance of building infrastructure in a part of the state where populations is dropping and ferry usage is down by one quarter.
The $570 million road project would be paid for with 90 percent federal funding, and the 10 percent matching funding from the state, which could be allocated in increments over the life of the several-year project.
The Walker Administration, in cooperation with Juneau Rep. Sam Kito, had transferred a major portion of the funds that had been designated for the projects to other communities around the state. But the funding could have been be transferred back to the Juneau Access Project in the supplemental budget.
More than half of Juneau residents favor the road, but many in Kito’s District 33, which is the most liberal district in the state, remain opposed to it. In the Mendenhall Valley, represented by Parish, more people favor the road.
Rep. Pruitt offered an amendment to the supplemental budget that would return some of that money to the Juneau Access Project. The amendment failed, 20-19, with both Juneau representatives — Parish and Kito — voting against the road. Had either one of them voted yes, the funding for the project funds would have been restored.

Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities calls for extending the road along Northern Lynn Canal from its current dead end at Echo Cove to Katzehin River, where a new ferry terminal would be built.

From there, smaller ferries that are under construction in Ketchikan would take vehicles and passengers to Haines and Skagway on short routes with up to eight trips a day. Ferries used in Northern Lynn Canal could be deployed to other communities, such as Sitka, Hoonah, and Petersburg.

Proponents of the road project believe that it is key to saving the ferry system. Right now, ferries are so old and they are missing more and more sailings due to repairs.

Hawkins

STRANDED TRAVELERS ACROSS SOUTHEAST

Earlier this month, six basketball teams were stranded in Sitka when one of the ferries suffered a breakdown, something that is now a common occurrence.

The M/V LeConte needed parts that needed to be flown in from Illinois but meanwhile Allen Marine, a private ferry company in Sitka, was able to fill in and get the students back to their home communities of Angoon, Kake, and Hoonah.

In April, some 400 students and parents from around Southeast were not going to be able to attend the regional music festival in Juneau in April because of ferry system breakdown, but the Alaska Marine Highway System has adjusted its schedule to ensure the students and chaperones can attend. But that means other communities will sacrifice their expected runs.

Proponents of the Juneau Access Project argue that by funding and building the road, the aging ferry system can be more efficiently used for other island communities that will never have road access.

Republican lawmakers in the House voted for greater access to Juneau, while all Democrats and Indie-Dem Daniel Ortiz of Ketchikan voting against it.

Monday’s floor vote was one of the clearest demonstrations yet of the divide between those who want to grow good-paying jobs and access to the Capital City, versus those who want Juneau to remain “just as it is.”

Or as the old joke goes, “a quaint little drinking town with a government problem.”

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Just as we suspected that they would do. They are purposely following orders from there king. It is just as I said last night you legislators that want to hold us back need to go. It’s simple were in last place in America when it comes to resource development. We’re in last place when it comes to being safe. We’re in last place when it comes to employment. What do you obstructionists not get? We need to make money and you vote no on a project that would of put hundreds to work. I don’t get it. Just like what a lady said yesterday in testimony last night your fired.

  • I thought that Representative Tuck also wanted jobs. I guess that unless it involves jobs for the IBEW – the Operating Engineers and the Teamsters can go pound sand.

  • Looks like Juneau Dems are the new fiscal conservatives, unless you subscribe to the notion that federal money is “free”.

    Feds might be gullible enough to dump a billion into this temporary jobs for Juneau program, but it will come at the expense of other statewide transportation projects and maintenance dollars.

    Besides, extending the dead end to another ferry terminal is more likely a ruse to get big gov to build a road to remote gold mines along the proposed route.

  • AMHS Ridership is down because the schedule has been reduced to pre-1990 levels and nobody can depend on them. This should come as no surprise given that many of the vessels are over 50yrs old. For reference, the average age of most foreign flag cargo ships is about 7yrs old, they scrap them at about 15yrs-20yrs old because they become too cost prohibitive to maintain.

    They better build the road North of Juneau because otherwise, they will have nowhere to run the two new “Alaska Class” ferries being built in Ketchikan. They do not have crew staterooms which means they can’t run more than about 12hrs/day. As the system stands now, there are very few ports less than 5hrs one way from Juneau or any other major hub. End result is that without the road to shorten the ferry ride between Junea, Haines and Skagway the “Alaska Class” ferries will be dressed up with literally nowhere to go…..