Glacier Highway extending 3 miles north

The road out of Juneau is getting a little longer this summer. Crews are extending Glacier Highway, the capital city’s northernmost land route. It’s a step in what officials hope will be an approximately 50-mile highway, to the north and west along Lynn Canal.

Transportation Commissioner Marc Luiken told the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on Thursday that construction is ongoing.

Transportation Commissioner Marc Luiken

“We are well on our way to being able to complete that about 3-mile extension this fall. It’ll be a gravel road out there initially; we’ll eventually get out there to probably put a chip seal on it. And then eventually we’ll improve it beyond that,” he said.

The work involves widening and upgrading an existing gravel road from Glacier Highway’s current end to Cascade Point, on Berners Bay. Miller Construction won the contract for the $2.5-million-dollar project.

Plans for the longer road, to the Katzehin River, are less clear. A new ferry terminal would be built, connecting drivers to Skagway and Haines.

Environmental groups sued to block the road. Two federal courts have ruled that planners should have considered improved ferry service as an alternative to laying down pavement. That’s blocked plans to begin construction.

Luiken says his staff, the governor’s office and the Federal Highway Administration are still considering what to do next.

“Really, it boils down to two options. We can either appeal to the Supreme Court. Or we can conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement that addresses the issues that the Ninth Circuit (Court) brought up in their ruling,” Luiken says.

He says either option would take up to two years. Both could take place at the same time.