Alaska's capital city may finally get land link

| 12/19/2002

It may soon be a little easier for freight to make its way to Alaska's capital. Officials in the state are considering building a road from the capital, Juneau, to the city of Skagway, according to media reports.

There is no road connecting the capital city, which lies along the Inland Passage in the far southeast panhandle of the state, with the rest of Alaska. Residents can only get there by air or sea ferry.

The Associated Press reported Dec. 17 that Gov. Frank Murkowski directed officials at Alaska's Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to reopen the environmental impact statement on the effort, which has been dubbed the Juneau Access Project. The effort had stopped two years ago when Democrat Tony Knowles was governor.

"Access to the capital city is an important issue for all Alaskans that has been stalled for several years," Murkowski said in a statement.

The most-discussed option, according to The Juneau Empire, is a 65-mile road to Skagway. The route would run from Echo Cove, at the end of Glacier Highway, through the Berners Bay area and beside Lynn Canal to Skagway, which lies more than 50 miles north of the capital city, near the border with Canada. A shuttle ferry would connect Skagway to Haines, which lies to the west across Lynn Canal.

Besides allowing over the road transportation to reach the capital, the project has important political implications for the state: Some Alaskans think the road would weaken the argument for moving the capital to south central Alaska.

The project does face some opposition. Media outlets reported environmental groups would sue the state to stop the project if they found any problems in the environmental study or if the road moves ahead. And the plan is opposed by many people in Haines and Skagway.