Governor on Juneau Access Project: ‘I don’t want to create any false hope’

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker listens to a question from KTOO and Alaska Public Media reporter Andrew Kitchenman from his Capitol office in Juneau on June 19, 2018.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker takes questions in his Capitol office in Juneau on Tuesday. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Money in the state budget marked for the stalled Juneau Access Project doesn’t signify any shift in Gov. Bill Walker’s stance against “building the road” to Alaska’s capital city.

“I left that money there because if there’s ways to improve access for Juneau, then that money – they worked hard to get that so it’s there,” Walker said in a Tuesday interview during a visit to Sitka. “So I’m not really making a statement, other than I’m just leaving it there.”

Pro-road advocates were elated when the governor declined to veto $21 million inserted by the Legislature. That’s despite the governor pulling his support for the project in 2016.

“I don’t want to create any false hope, necessarily, that that is sort of breathing life into something that we have closed,” Walker said.

The governor said the money could be used to support ferry service or other regional transportation improvements. He added he continues to have reservations about the project’s design: extending Juneau’s highway nearly 50 miles north to a ferry terminal on the Katzehin River to link with Haines and Skagway.

“You know, I was certainly concerned about the ferry terminal that was yet to be built, a long ways away from Juneau itself,” the governor said. “I was concerned about the walk-on passengers, how that would work – there was a lot of, you know, the terrain issues, a lot of different things, the litigation. But it’s funding that they fought and worked hard for to get for better access and if there’s other options out there we’d certainly take a look.”

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