Alaska’s governor wants to use almost $10 million to fund
preliminary work for new North Slope roads in hopes of spurring more oil and
Gov. Frank Murkowski, announcing his 2005 “aggressive energy
agenda” at a Dec. 3 news conference in Anchorage, also said he would ask the
Alaska Legislature in coming weeks to upgrade the Dalton Highway and give tax
breaks to companies that explore for oil and gas in Bristol Bay.
Murkowski said he would propose a $20 million state roads
package when the Legislature convenes its 2005 session in January. About $9
million would go to spreading a new layer of gravel and dust suppressant on
sections of the Dalton Highway, roughly between mileposts 234 to 254 and 265 to
305. The road, which runs from north of Fairbanks through the Arctic to the
Prudhoe Bay oil fields, is notorious for its potholes and other hazards that
rough up vehicles.
“It’s difficult to make a smooth surface when you have very
large rocks,” Shannon McCarthy, DOT Northern Region spokeswoman, told local
media. “If you’re a big rig, which is much of the traffic up there, it is
really rough driving on big boulders.”
The governor’s proposal would pay for the repairs solely
with state funds, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Most work on
Alaska’s highways is funded by federal funds with a small state match.
Another $5 million would go for design work and
environmental studies on the proposed Bullen Point Road, which would run 50-60
miles east from Prudhoe Bay toward Point Thompson. And $4 million would be used
for preliminary work on the Foothills West Road, which would run about 75 miles
to the west off the Dalton Highway around milepost 361.
The purpose of both roads is to spur interest in oil and gas
development, Murkowski said, to help the economy and to increase the income
from state leases.
Both roads are in the early stages of study. The funds would
likely be enough to pay for studies on the roads but not to design and build
them. According to the News-Miner, state officials hope to use federal
or other funds to actually construct the roads.