UPDATED: Road north, library-museum project in budget

A 2010 drawing of one floor of the State Library, Archives and Museum Project in Juneau. It’s one of the projects listed in Gov. Seal Parnell’s capital budget. Photo courtesy of alaskalamp.blogspot.com

Governor Sean Parnell’s capital budget proposes spending about $195 million on Southeast projects.

That’s a little more than 10 percent of the statewide total of $1.8 billion.

The spending plan, released today, is for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. The budget will undergo many changes before it’s passed by the Legislature in the spring. (Read the budget.)

The budget would allocate $10 million toward construction of the Juneau Access Project, a road north out of the capital city to a ferry terminal close to Haines.

The largest Southeast project would rebuild about 22 miles of the Haines Highway, which links the northern Southeast city to the Alaska Highway. The budget proposes spending $31 million on that work.

Another large project is at the southern end of the region. Metlakatla Elementary School would undergo an almost $15 million renovation.

Juneau Representative Bert Kerttula says the budget includes many good projects – just not enough.

“I can see the Petersburg police station, which badly needs replacing, isn’t in at the moment. There is some room for capital [projects] in the budget, but not a lot. So, I’m sure it’s a work in progress,” Kerttula says. But I can see that the direction we’re heading isn’t really the one I would be going in right at this moment.”

Another large project in the budget is the new State Library, Archives and Museum building. The structure, in Juneau, would see $20 million, pushing its funding total above $100 million. About another $30 million is needed.

Parnell’s capital budget would also put $10 million toward construction of a road north out of Juneau, toward Haines and Skagway.

There are also a number of ferry projects. One would repower the fast ferries Fairweather and Chenega.

Marine highways chief Mike Neussl says the $9 million, plus money appropriated last year, would allow replacement of all eight engines.

The state is suing to make the builders pay for that. But it needs an appropriation in case the court case fails.

Neussl says replacements would be the same design as those now in use – and failing.

“There’s not any real good alternative beside that engine in terms of producing the same power, fitting into the same space and being compatible with the systems that are in there. A change of engines would require a fairly substantial redesign of a lot of systems,” Nuessal says.

Skagway’s ferry terminal is also in the budget. Neussl says $4.5 million would be spent modifying its loading area.

“It’s basically a floating concrete structure and the top surface of it is in a fairly poor state of repair. It tends to leak water into it. We have an ongoing project to determine whether it can be repaired or needs to be replaced,” Nuessal says.

He says the structure may need to be modified to accommodate a new Alaska Class Ferry design.

The capital budget also includes $3 million for improving Ketchikan’s ferry terminal. And the city would also receive about $5 million for water and sewer system work. Sitka would get about $1.4 million for much of the same.

Wrangell and Petersburg would each see $3 million for airport apron and taxiway work.

The governor released his operating and capital budget together. They total $12.8 billion. Parnell says total spending is more than a billion dollars leaner than the previous year.

Kerttula, House minority leader, questions his revenue projections.

“I’m fine having a conservative budget going in. But this, coupled with the governor’s forecast with the new methodology out of revenue, and with the upcoming oil bill, which I’m sure will happen, has me concerned about how we’re going into the future,” Kerttula says.

The region gets a little more than 10 percent of the $1.8 billion statewide capital budget. The overall amount is about a third less than last year’s final public-works spending plan, which was about a billion dollars more.

The budget is for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. It will undergo many changes before its final legislative vote this spring.

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