Story last updated at 1/21/2009 - 11:41 am
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of essays written by Floyd Dryden eighth grade students in Samantha Davis' class. Students could write about any topic they felt strongly about. A student editorial board selected the best 15 essays. At least one a week will be printed in the Capital City Weekly during the coming months.
If you had 300 million dollars, what would you do with it? Well, guess what: Alaska does have it, and they want to build a road to nowhere.
A debate about this road has been going on since the 1990's. Building the road to Skagway is just a waste of money. With gas prices and mileage it will cost a lot to drive there. Also, the ferry will be cheaper, faster and safer.
If Alaska builds the road, we would just be wasting $300 million. The road doesn't go all the way to Skagway; it would stop 18 miles south instead, right before Skagway's Gold Rush-era park, a national landmark.
The Federal Highway Administration announced in August 2005 that they wouldn't finance the road because originally it would have gone through the landmark. The highway designers promised to fix this problem. They would build a new ferry terminal at the end of the proposed road then would buy new boats to get people across.
Why build another ferry system that goes 18 miles? This will make regional travel harder. Currently, you can get on a ferry in Juneau and take it all the way to Skagway, while with the road you drive nearly 68 miles then have to take a ferry anyways. Not only is it a waste of Alaska's money, but also it's a waste of time.
The road to Skagway is about 86 miles, but you also have to subtract the 18 miles that go through the national landmark. Then it's only 68 miles, and let's say you have a car that is 20 miles to the gallon. With gas at about $2.50 you would spend $8.50 one-way. Of course it's cheaper that way, but remember that's one way, and you still have the ferry ride.
The ferry to Skagway round trip costs $242. This includes your car and two adults. During the summer the fast ferry travels to Skagway in two hours. In the winter the regular ferries travel there in only a few hours. When driving at 55 mph on the road to Skagway, it would take about an hour and a half. That may be less time, but you still have to take a ferry to finish the trip.
So what are you going to do in the car when you're driving? Sleep? Play games? Listen to music? Well, you can do all that on the ferry and more. While you're driving you may have a cooler of food, but will the food be fresh by the time you want to eat it, or will it be the kind you want? The ferry provides food at a good price and a multiple selection. It also includes a room you can sleep in and an arcade.
The communities of Haines and Skagway both support the ferry system over road construction. Do you?
The road to Skagway is a road to nowhere. It's a waste of Alaska's money and yours. Driving will cost more than the ferry does and it's round trip. The road is a huge waste of 300 million dollars. Driving may seem to cost less, but in the long run it doesn't. The ferry is nicer then a car and safer.
Though some people may read this and ask, "Is the road safe?" I can answer that: no. In the winter, avalanches occur, and it can be deadly.
I would like to quote Heather Lende, writing for the New York Times on her opinion of this subject. She writes, "John Muir warned young people not to travel up the Inside Passage in Alaska. After you see it, he pointed out, you'll either have to stay, or every place else will be a disappointment. Nothing much had changed since he died. The Lynn Canal still looks like Yosemite by the sea. If the road ever gets built, I'll call it Disappointment Highway."
I agree with Heather. Why do we want to build a road through beautiful land? Alaska is a beautiful place and some places (which are few) still show the beauty of our state without civilization.
To end this paper I want to show you two polls, one taken in the last couple years and one taken the last month or so.
In a poll taken in the last couple years, 36% of Juneau residents preferred building the road up on the East side of Lynn Canal while another 36% of Juneau residents supported enhancing the ferry system. 16% of Juneau residents favor building the road up on the West side of Lynn Canal. Only 4% said no improvements were needed. 53% of Haines and Skagway residents supported the enhanced ferry system.
A poll taken in the last month or so consisted of four questions. Do you agree or disagree with Juneau building a road to Skagway? 66% disagreed with the road and 33% agreed.
Do you think the road will bring more jobs to Juneau and Skagway? 66% didn't know or care and 33% said no.
If the road was built would you drive to Skagway or take the ferry? 99% said they would take the ferry and 1% said they would drive.
If road was built do you think the ferry system would lose business? 66% said yes while 33% said it depended on who stays loyal to the ferry system.
People are entitled to their own opinions. Hopefully this essay helped you decide on what yours is.
Michaela Schlechter is an eighth grade student of Samantha Davis at Floyd Dryden Middle School in Juneau.